Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Another War in Sudan?

Violence continues in Darfur despite an attempt at a cease-fire between militants fighting the government and its vicious janjaweed militia for independence from Khartoum. The month of May was the bloodiest in at least two years, with more than 400 deaths. In total, some 300,000 to 400,000 are thought to have died, many as a result of the privations caused by the fighting. Tensions are also mounting over a different conflict that threatens to explode in January, when the largely Christian and animist region in the south of Sudan votes in a referendum on secession from the Muslim north. (Darfur is in the western half of the country and is not covered by the referendum.) South Sudan has been pushing for autonomy ever since the country attained independence in 1956, but Khartoum is reluctant to let go of a region that holds some 80% of Sudan's oil reserves. A 2005 power- and profit-sharing agreement between the north and south is decried as unfair in the south, where secession is expected to be overwhelmingly approved in the Jan. 9 vote. The regime of Omar al-Bashir, in order to maintain control of the relatively barren Darfur, has proved its willingness to shed blood on a scale that has seen him charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court. The fallout from a secession vote is expected to be grim.