Sudan Conflict Could Shake Region; Border Countries Have Stakes in Oil Export Business
Gatsiounis, Ioannis, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Byline: Ioannis Gatsiounis, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
KAMPALA, UGANDA -- The intensifying conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is threatening to drag in neighboring countries and undermine regional security and economic interests.
Ugandan Defense Chief Gen. Aronda Nyakairima said last week that his country would not hesitate to intervene if fighting escalates, and he urged his counterparts in Kenya and Ethiopia to take positions on the conflict.
All three countries share borders with South Sudan and have strengthened economic ties since the South gained independence in July.
South Sudan is Uganda's largest export market, and Kenya and Ethiopia recently signed a major infrastructure project with South Sudan that will include an oil pipeline running from the South to Kenya's shore. The pipeline will reduce the South's dependence onSudan for oil shipments. Independence left South Sudan with 75 percent of Sudan's oil fields but still heavily dependent on Sudan for shipment and refining.
The latest fighting, the worst since independence in July, revolves around an oil field in Heglig, along their disputed border. In 2009, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration defined the border and placed Heglig inside Sudan.
Kenya Defense Forces spokesman Col. Cyrus Oguna hinted that the war between the two Sudans would have a destabilizing effect on the region through arms trafficking, refugees and economic disruption. He added that Kenya has not ruled out upgrading its U.N.-backed peacekeeping mandate.
Uganda plunged further into debt in 2010 with the $750 million purchase of six Su-30MK2 Russian fighter jets, a move some military analysts say was in anticipation of war with Sudan.
President Yoweri Museveni has been silent on how Uganda would handle any escalation.
Sudan at one time backed the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a rebel group originating in northern Uganda that has recruited child soldiers and displaced nearly 2 million people. Uganda in turn backed South Sudanese rebels.
Gen. Nyakairima last week accused Sudan of preparing LRA rebels for combat with South Sudan. The LRA is thought to be down to about 500 soldiers, who operate in the jungles of the Central African Republic, Congo and South Sudan. …