Yesterday fighting broke out in Jau, a region claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan. The armies of the two nations clashed directly, unlike in some other border conflicts where the North army has faced off against local militias:
South Sudan’s military spokesman, Philip Aguer, said the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) bombarded the Jau area with warplanes and used artillery to hit positions of the south’s Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
“The SPLA is trying to repulse the attackers, the Sudan Armed Forces,” he told Reuters. “The first attack was on Saturday when SAF started invading … It is in South Sudan, there is no dispute about that. Jau is deep in South Sudan.”
Al-Sawarmi Khalid, spokesman for Sudan’s military, confirmed the clashes, but said Jau was in Sudanese territory. “Now the Sudanese army controls the Jau area, which is inside the Republic of Sudan,” he said.
“South Sudan’s army tried to attack six times today. This is an assault on the Sudanese army and Sudanese land.”
The crisis has spilled into the diplomatic arena as well:
Sudan and South Sudan on Thursday staked rival claims to a disputed border region at the UN Security Council after new clashes which have heightened fears of broader conflict between the rivals.
Ambassadors for Sudan and South Sudan both said that Jau, which the north’s troops attacked last week, was part of their territory.
My sense of things is that the two countries are still hoping to avoid a full-blown war, but direct conflict between the two armies is already a form of war, and could easily escalate.
Here is a map showing Jau’s location.
Turning to the issue of the new cabinet in Khartoum, despite the ruling National Congress Party’s professed goal of greater inclusiveness, most news analyses say that key ministries remain in the regime’s hands. The opposition Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) did join the cabinet, and both the DUP and the National Umma Party (NUP), another key opposition party in the North, have recently dispatched some of their leaders to serve as advisers to President Omar al Bashir. But the NUP and others are saying that the new cabinet will not alleviate Sudan’s internal tensions, and an NUP spokesman said that Sudan remains “on a path to the Arab Spring. People are dissatisfied because of poverty, hunger and the decline of the economy, health and education.”