South Sudan President Salva Kiir. FILE | AFRICA REVIEW |
By MACHEL AMOS in Juba and REEM ABBAS in Khartoum
Posted Thursday, April 12 2012 at 15:05 @ http://bit.ly/J6w2yr
The possibility of Sudan and South Sudan returning to war looked more real Friday as both sides remained defiant over a contested oil-rich region.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir ruled out withdrawal from Heglig, as Khartoum vowed to fight a "war of dignity" with the former to reclaim the lost territory.
South Sudan took control of Heglig from Sudanese forces on Tuesday in fresh clashes with the Khartoum Armed Forces.
The UN and the African Union have called for South Sudan's immediate withdrawal from Heglig.
President Kiir said Khartoum took it as a military weakness when he ordered the troops to refrain from overrunning Heglig last month.
It was not. But we always believed that everything could be resolved by peaceful means, President Kiir stressed.
This time, I said that I would not order the forces to withdraw, said the President, amid applause from a packed House.
He said the decision was not because South Sudan was interested in war, but only wanted to resolve the problem once and for all.
In Khartoum, the minister for Defence, Mr Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, said that the conflict was part of a plot to "overthrow the regime".
"Taking over the oil-fields is the first step, to be followed by taking over a key town in Southern Kordofan, then taking over Khartoum," he told parliament.
Heglig is part of South Kordofan State where a rebellion against the Khartoum government has raged since last June.
However, the area was also contested with South Sudan because the latter believed that in the 1956 border demarcation, Heglig was part of its Unity State.
Sudan denies the claims and has vowed to reclaim what it considers to be occupied territories.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, in a phone call on Wednesday, urged President Kiir to order his forces to withdraw immediately.
The UN Secretary General gave me an order to immediately withdraw from Heglig. I said I am not under your command, Kiir said, attracting applause.
President Kiir accused UN and the international community of being unfair in handling the matters between the two neighbouring states.
Whatever aerial bombardments were being conducted in South Sudan were a violation of our sovereignty. When we report them to the international community, they don't take it as something that concerns them, President Kiir said, arguing that whenever Juba took a step in self-defence, it became a matter of international concern.
"You are not doing justice to all of us," said the South Sudan leader.
"You want to see justice done to Sudan and not South Sudan, and this is unfair."
President Kiir also warned that if his Sudan counterpart Hassan Al-Bashir did not withdraw troops from Abyei, despite international calls to do so, Juba would reconsider it position and possibly return to the contested region.
Meanwhile, Sudan intensified aerial bombardments on Thursday, dropping four rounds of bombs in Bentiu, the capital of Unity State.
Unity State Information minister Gideon Gatpan said a SAF warplane hovered over the area in the morning and dropped the bombs on Rubkona County.
He said the target was oilfields. The army spokesman, Col Philip Aguer, confirmed the bombing, accusing Sudan of provoking a meaningless fighting.
Sudan TV stated Wednesday in a news broadcast that many youths had come forward to join the armed forces to get back their country's lost territory.
In another development, a Sudanese parliamentarian has donated $374,000 (1 million pounds) to support the war efforts against South Sudan.
Sudan has filed a complaint against South Sudan at the UN Security Council and asked the Security Council to pressure Juba into retreating from its territory.
"Sudan has full rights in international law and UN documents to respond to this attack on Sudan's peace and unity," said Khartoum's UN ambassador Dafallah Al-Haj Ali
A presidential aide, Mr Abdel-Rahman Al Mahdi; said that "Sudan will not fold its hands while Heglig is occupied and will work to get back its territories that were raped as an act of self defence".