The sense of relief that prevailed after the January referendum on South Sudan independence was conducted smoothly and in a largely peaceful environment has dissipated last month when North Sudan army seized control of the fertile, oil-producing region of Abyei, the ownership of which is also claimed by South Sudan whose vote for independence in the referendum will see it become the world’s newest nation on July 9.
Concurrently, violence erupted in the country’s north-south border state of South Kordofan after the northern army attempted to rig local elections and attack local fighters aligned with South Sudan. Over 90,000 people have been displaced, according to UN figures, and hundreds have been killed, according to local NGOs as the northern army carried out aerial bombardment of civilians and unprovoked artillery attacks in the area.
Roger Winter, the former U.S special envoy to Sudan, on Wednesday addressed a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, about the recent upsurge of violence in Abyei and South Kordofan.
Winter called for an immediate military action against Khartoum in order to strengthen South Sudan army and halt attacks on civilians.
“Take a military action against a Khartoum military target now,” Winter said, adding that the goal would be “to strengthen the SPLA in meaningful ways as a deterrent against Khartoum aggression, provocation and attacks against civilians”
Winter blamed the current situation on the approach adopted by the former US special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration, chiding his “seemingly intimate relationship” with the leadership of north Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP).
“Perhaps the eccentricities of General Gration’s approach to being Special Envoy for Sudan are related to the Obama Administration’s commitment to ‘reach out’ to the Arab and Islamic world,” Winter said.
“His seemingly intimate relationship with the NCP leadership led to his many public references to that leadership as ‘my friends’,” he stressed.
Winter said that any commitments made by the Khartoum government are unreliable and that the government’s actions had led to the death of three million people.