Austin Bay

Sudan's genocidal Darfur war still attracts international attention, and though large battles pitting national government troops against Darfur rebels are less frequent there, violent anarchy still afflicts that sad region.

A much larger and more dangerous war haunts Sudan, however: a re-ignition of the "North versus South" civil war. This reviving horror has ominous implications not only for East Africa but all nations straddling sub-Saharan Africa's "Arab-Black" ethnic and "Muslim-Christian" divides.

The last North-South war (the Second Sudan Civil War) lasted for two decades, left approximately 2 million dead, created millions of refugees and -- despite ritual denials by the northern, Islamist, "national government" in Khartoum -- involved slaving operations by northern-backed "Arab" militias. The evidence for this evil was damnably clear. South Sudanese black tribespeople would be kidnapped and then sold as laborers in the north.

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The "third civil war" would be as vicious as the last, but given current political conditions, could rapidly expand beyond Sudan and become a regional war involving several other impoverished, fragile states in East Africa -- a war of the poor creating greater poverty and anarchy.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in January 2005, created a map with interim milestones for resolving the civil war. Today the peace map is tattered. Interim successes have been undermined by cynical manipulation, corruption, chaotic bloodshed and -- here's the deep worry -- the likelihood of calculated "proxy war" instigated by the north and thinly masked as tribal disputes.

The situation has deteriorated despite U.N. peacekeepers deployed in the south. UNMIS (UN Mission in Sudan) was initially regarded as a success. China contributes troop contingents.

China's role as peacekeeper, however, is overshadowed by its role as oil field developer and oil customer. Sudan's oil fields inconveniently stretch across the North-South boundary, but to classify the conflict as another oil war vastly oversimplifies the complex problems.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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