On Wednesday, we posted an article on the escalating violence on the border between the Republic of Sudan and Southern Sudan, due to become independent in July. Yesterday a Southern Sudan minister said more than 150,000 people have fled because of the fighting.
Maggie Fick picks up the story for Foreign Policy magazine:
In the past week, things have fallen apart in Sudan. With the clock ticking down toward the date when Africa's largest country officially breaks in two, the borderlands between the two would-be states have caught on fire.
Abyei, the most volatile north-south border hotspot, has once more become a proxy battleground where the northern and southern governments are acting out a dangerous high-stakes game through their respective armed forces. On Saturday evening, northern tanks rolled into the contested town, using aerial bombardments of nearby villages for cover.
Adding to the unfolding drama, as mortars fell into the United Nations peacekeeping mission base in Abyei, a U.N. Security Council delegation touched down in the northern capital of Khartoum to hold preparatory meetings ahead of the South's expected July 9 declaration of independence.
The day afterwards, North Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti snubbed the council, calling in sick for a meeting with the delegation. A meeting with Vice President Ali Osman Taha reportedly also did not occur. Sources present inside the talks that did happen with the northern government said the discussions were less than fruitful, with little indication that the Khartoum government intends to back down over Abyei.
The international community, including the United States, has broadly condemned the northern army's seizure of Abyei as a disproportionate response to a firefight last Thursday between northern and southern troops. That skirmish was likely started by the southern army, according to the State Department, though with rumors flying, divergent accounts constantly surfacing, and the Abyei territory largely emptied of its residents, U.N. civilian staff, and aid workers, accurate narratives of the sequence of events are proving elusive.
But there's no question the north struck back with a vengeance.