What started off as a leadership contest has now turned into an ethnic war and may further degenerate into civil war.
This is the real danger that faces Africa’s latest country Sudan.
The cause of the conflict may however lie elsewhere with the ethnic factor serving as a sheer veneer and cover aimed at diverting attention from the real issues and engine driving the conflict.
Worthy of note is the fact that the fighting has also coincided with attacks on oil companies. Sudan exports about 220,000 barrels of oil a day and has reserves that are third highest after Nigeria and Angola in sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition Sudan also has a reserve of other minerals including gold and diamonds which are much sought after by many developed countries. Already five workers from China’s Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC) have been killed in attacks from rebel groups that are fighting Government for control.
Another 11 people are reported to have been killed at the Thar Jath oil field.
At face value therefore the conflict appears to be as a result of ethic animosity between the Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups. Already more than 500 people many of them civilians have died, butchered by “ethnic” troops.
In one case youths attacked a United Nations camp where an ethnic group runs for refuge. The youths attacked the camp and killed three UN Indian soldiers.
For all practical purposes the fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar has nothing to do with resources but everything to do with political causes.
It is however interesting to note that the town of Akobo is in Jonglei State whose capital Bor is under the control of Mr. Machar’s forces. It is not by coincidence that the fighting has taken on this regional character at a time when the economic potential of the country is gaining closer attention from ‘foreign investors”.
The ethnic card is obviously being played for very different reasons.
The truth is that the conflict in Sudan has its antecedents elsewhere. The conflict is a result of a dispute involving the oil-rich Abyei and the general war in Darfur.
Even as Southern Sudan was getting independence the issue of Abyei had not been fully resolved setting the stage for the current conflict in which Nothern forces are seeking to take control of the vast oil resources to the exclusion of the rest of the country which had borne the brunt of the liberation struggle.
At the end of the day innocent citizens have been killed and many others will be displaced seemingly under the guise of an ethnic conflict when oil and mineral resources will be the main impetus.
This is the same case in Congo DRC where rare mineral resources are at the heart of the continuing conflict that is blamed on the Tutsi/ Hutu conflict.