Immediately new conflicts
The celebration of the new state had hardly abated before the unresolved issues led to new conflicts. South Sudan accused Sudan of stealing oil delivered from the south for shipment from Sudan and in February 2012 suspended all oil production pending a settlement.
Despite the fact that the countries entered into a non-aggression pact, there were sporadic battles over the oil fields in the border area. In April 2012, South Sudanese troops occupied Sudan’s largest remaining oil field, Heglig, following allegations of Sudanese bombing of civilian areas in South Sudan. The Sudanese government suspended all ongoing peace talks.
The fighting spread to other disputed areas along the border, where local militias with ties to the SPLA took up arms against the Sudanese army. Following a sharply worded UN resolution in May 2012, hostilities ceased and South Sudanese forces were withdrawn from Heglig. The UN gave the countries a deadline of three months to solve all mutual problems.
Negotiations culminated in a settlement in September that would regulate security issues, trade and oil production. A demilitarized buffer zone would also be set up between the countries, but the demarcation itself would be postponed once again in the future.
In 2013, the Government of Sudan froze a series of agreements with South Sudan on security issues and economic cooperation, and when civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013, further negotiations stalled. A bright spot came in June 2016 when new negotiations began after a peace agreement was concluded in South Sudan the year before and a coalition government took office. New outbreaks of violence in South Sudan from the summer of 2016, however, brought the negotiations to a standstill again.
Conflicts within Sudan
The 50-year war between North and South has marked Sudan’s modern history, but there are also other hotspots within the country. Like many other African countries, Sudan is basically an artificial creation, and in independence in 1956, the new state inherited a number of inherent contradictions.
Since the beginning of the 2000’s, there have been armed conflicts in the western region of Darfur, in the east around the Red Sea and in the states of Southern Kurdufan and the Blue Nile in the southern part of what is today Sudan after the country’s division in 2011.
The conflict in Darfur
The large, semi-desert region of Darfur is inhabited by Arabs and black African peoples. Among the Africans, three ethnic groups dominate: fur, zagawa and masalite. For an outsider, it is not always easy to see the difference between blacks and Arabs.
Darfur served for centuries as its own sultanate, albeit loosely cohesive. From the late Middle Ages, Islam was the dominant religion among most ethnic groups.
Darfur was weakened in the 18th century by internal conflicts and wars against neighboring sultanates and in 1875 became an easy prey for Egypt, which ruled over northern Sudan and wanted to expand its empire. When the British took power in 1899, formally in cooperation with Egypt, Darfur regained some of its autonomy, but in 1916 the area came back under British control. Then World War I was going on and the British wanted to prevent the Ottoman Empire from gaining control of Darfur.
During the continued colonial era, the Arab clans from the region around Khartoum benefited from education and government employment. Most economic investments also took place around the capital, while more remote regions fell behind.
Struggle for assets
This unequal distribution of resources continued after Sudan’s independence in 1956. Darfur was also embroiled in the midst of the many conflicts involving Sudan, Chad and Libya. when the countries were created during the colonial era.
When an already politically and socially divided Darfur was hit by severe drought in the 1980’s, famine and hardship led to armed clashes between different ethnic groups. The increasingly scarce resources pitted Arab clans who lived as nomads in need of pasture for their livestock against settled African ethnic groups who cared for their agricultural land.
In the hunt for wells and pastures, nomads from northern Darfur drove their flocks south, into the lands of the settled farmers, while the farmers’ crops were threatened by drought. More and more Darfurians began to suffer from constant food shortages, and still do.