The African Union and the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have described Sudan and S. Sudan as being locked in the ‘logic of war.’ This hypothetic framing is the result of the ineffectiveness and failure of the African Unions and United Nation Security Council respectively, to bring the two neighbouring nations to an agreement on the modalities of the cessation of hostilities, border demarcation and effective concession on oil transit fees. Not adhering to the implementation process of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in the three areas has also added to the blunder.
In the two years of the mediations between Sudan and S. Sudan by the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP), there appeared to have been serious lapses and easy-going that have thus far, aided the mouth-frothing and hysteria at the post-secession talks between the two nations. Thus, we see the mustering of troops. The UNSC passed a resolution demanding Sudan to withdraw from Abyei but never acted on the Sudanese defiance when it reneged on that resolution. The African Union seemed to have accepted Khartoum’s demand of $36 per barrel for South Sudanese crude transit and refining, and not factoring in the fact that the pipeline was built from the oil money and should remain a shared facility.
As the much awaited and widely predicted return to war unfolds before the foretellers are still watching, Obama’s Sudans may replace Clinton’s Rwanda and Srebrenica. Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese are stranded in Khartoum and the flights between the two nations are halting fast and conditionally. They are already foreigners, a status that had similarly and automatically been accorded northern Sudanese in South Sudan. The Sudanese are avid haters of South Sudanese when in Sudan but when they are in South Sudan, ironically, they are brothers of the hosting one. One may fear that political engineers at the helms in either country may exploit the public panic of the population during this unwelcome war of power solidification. This is particularly applicable to the hardliners in Sudan who always encroach on opposition amidst the chaos.
What about regime change? One of the objectives, which the SPLA/M aimed to achieve in 1983 when it started the liberation war, was a regime change in Khartoum and the wish to usher in a new Sudan built on equality. Of course, the regime in Khartoum changed soon after that, when President Nimeiri’s rule was ended in 1985. The kind of regime change that the SPLA/M wanted rather than itself remained elusive throughout the years.
Now the Sudanese state had adopted regime change in South Sudan as its cardinal objective and had already managed to pull South Sudanese rebellious people like David Yau Yau from the ranks of the SPLA. This behaviour of winning your enemy's foes usually complicates the Sudanese war politics. An issue of change, if looked closely, will lead us to a radical bearing that goes to the crux of national existence whether in Sudan or South Sudan. It is here that the unity of the Sudanese people across the dividing borders is tested to the maximum and further, exploited at best by politicians.
Had it not been the take over of Heglig by the South Sudanese Army, this agendum of regime change would not have been made openly by Khartoum. As the battle to woo each other’s enemies to one’s side continues, oppositions on either side will have to endure labels of any column they will be fitted into and certainly, brace for sudden arrests.
The oil will remain the factor of change in all cases in the war of regime change. The AU and UNSC hypothesis of the two nations locked in the ‘logic of war’ is a truth that can be understood in the fight over Panthou/Heglig which now had an ideology of regime change. But ending SPLA capture of the oil-rich town is not foreseeable in the short while. If provocation led to the permanent refusal of Sudanese armed forces to withdraw from Abyei so was the provocation that led Juba to take over Panthou.
Indeed, the rebels will always matter. Khartoum blames its rebels for aiding Juba in the fight over the oil-producing town while Juba casts the same blame on Khartoum-backed rebels in South Sudan and further reduced its takeover of Panthou simply to a response in kind to cross-border attacks and aerial bombardment of its territories. As the bombardment is spreading along the borders and cross border-attacks following in the wake, the Sudans are technically in an all-out war.
The only thing that no one wants to predict, but leaves to the UNSC sanctions and the willingness of those who rule the roost in Sudan and S. Sudan, is the time when the traditional buy-time negotiations will begin again. One thing is certain though; the rebels’ futures may not escape dominating the talks if they ever occur. The Sudans have to choose one: either they continue to rebel against each other and be enemies contrary to their mutual progress –which they are now doing - or secure their friendly sovereignties by disowning rebels. In any way, rebels will continue to be border bandits. And as we have already witnessed in the South Sudanese take over of Heglig/Panthou, their tricks can cause quite a stare.
Since the sources of finance have been throttled at both ends for the in-betweens, and Juba is becoming agitated for shutting down its oil only to see Sudan pumping up to lure her enemies to fight her, chances are that withdrawal from Panthou/Heglig may require AU and UNSC to reframe the language of peace to exclude the words 'withdraw immediately' and 'unconditionally' when courting South Sudan.