Sudan: Arabs Fight For Their Oil


October 31,2008: Southern Kordofan state, and specifically its oil producing areas, are once again a major source of trouble between the Sudanese national government ("North" Sudan, run by the National Congress Party) and the Government of South Sudan (the regional "South" Sudan government run by the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement). The failure to implement the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is being blamed for the trouble, but that's just a symptom. Despite the national unity government (Government of National Unity, sometimes called the GNU) in the capital, the "North" and the "South" remain divided. Both are suspicious of the other, for political, religious and ethnic reasons. The GOSS does not trust the national government to divide oil wealth fairly. At the moment Sudan produces around 500,000 barrels of oil a day, and that generates a lot of cash. Southern Kordofan is a key oil producing region. In fact, the CPA essentially created Southern Kordofan as a "border area" (comprising what was West Kordofan, part of South Kordofan, and part of the Nuba Mountains). Both "African" (meaning black African, and in this case several "Nuba" tribal clans) and "Arab" tribes (Arab tribes like the Hawazma and Misseriya) live in the region. The Dinka tribes (Dinka Ngok, an African tribe) live in the Abyei "hotspot" as do Arab tribes that the southerners complain the government purposely moved into the area during the war. The national government accuses the GOSS of attempting to "polarize" the area by appealing to the black African tribes and the GOSS says that's the National Congress Party's game with "the Arabs." (The code phrase is "ethnic favoritism.") Many of these "Arab" tribes were involved in abductions, militia attacks, and slaving activities during the long civil war pitting Khartoum against the SPLM's military wing, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

The Nuba tend to be sedentary farmers. The Arabs are traditionally pastoralists, even though many also have farms. The "old fight" in the area was between the farmers and pastoralists (sedentary and nomads). Now the fight is over oil. But there are other complications. The Nuba are a very "mixed" ethnic group with internal divisions. Moreover, the Nuba have a long history of conflict with other southern tribes like the Dinka.

The Sudan Army and the SPLA have been establishing "joint patrols" in some of the contested areas, but numerous sources have reported an increasing number of both northern and southern forces near Southern Kordofan. The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has peacekeeping forces throughout the south, but they are not deployed as a "buffer force." At the moment most UNMIS troops are engaged in various engineering projects (infrastructure development) and local security operations.

October 30, 2008: UNAMID reported that "gunmen" attacked two peacekeepers who were protecting a water distribution facility in the town of Kutum (North Darfur state). One peacekeeper (a South African) was slain in the attack. So far this year 11 UNAMID peacekeepers (troops and police) have died in Darfur.

A government attempt to rescue nine kidnapped Chinese oil workers only got three out alive, the rest were killed or are missing.

October 27, 2008: New troop and police contingents for UNAMID (UN-AU "hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur) continue to arrive, but they are coming slowly. UNAMID now has around 11,000 troops and police. The UN Security Council authorized 26,000.

October 24, 2008: The UN and several NGOs operating in Darfur reported that an attack on a dozen villages in the Muhagiriya region (South Darfur state) by a janjaweed militia killed at least 40 civilians. Over 10,000 people fled from the area. The series of attacks occurred from October 5 through October 17. The delay in reporting is typical. The humanitarian workers get the reports from refugees. The reports corroborate an NGO report from the same period that an "Arab militia" (another phrase used to describe janjaweed militias) attacked the villages of Shabab and Sinet in the Muhagiriya area.

October 22, 2008: The government said that it had discovered the general area in Southern Kordofan state where an "Arab tribe" may be holding nine kidnapped Chinese oil workers. The government said that the Awlad Omran clan (a sub-clan of the Misseriya tribe) had taken the oil workers as "hostages." The Chinese workers were with an company doing contract work for the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC). Sudan's national Sudapet oil company is part of GNPOC. China, Malaysia, and India are also part of the consortium.



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