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War footing

"War footing" Continued...

Issue: "Not angry anymore," Dec. 1, 2007

That looks increasingly likely as frustration mounts with Khartoum. Nationwide elections are due in mid-2009, but Bashir has delayed releasing funds to count voters and to prepare for the polls. "If there are free and fair elections, most people believe the NCP won't win in Darfur, and certainly not in the South . . . in effect, it's regime change," Winter said.

Though southerners are now entitled to half the oil revenues produced in the South, they have no idea if the $800 million they receive is the full half-Khartoum does not divulge its total receipts. Some 15,000 northern troops who should have withdrawn are still stationed in the South, many around the oil fields.

The friction point that could spark war is Abyei, an oil-rich region that straddles both North and South. Peace negotiators left it to a U.S.-run boundary commission to draw Abyei's borders, stipulating that its final report would be binding. When its findings favored the South, however, Bashir ignored the commission. At the same Nov. 17 rally, he said he would not budge "an inch" on Abyei.

Meanwhile, Kiir, the South's leader, returned from the United States to cheering crowds in Juba, southern Sudan's capital. He immediately responded to Bashir's threats with his own line in the sand: Khartoum must resolve the last points of the CPA by Jan. 9, the three-year anniversary of its signing, he said. The SPLM "will not and will never ever take anybody to war again in the Sudan," he said, but "we reserve the right to self-defense." With Bashir still treating southerners as his enemies, they cannot afford to be caught off guard.

Holding peace hostage

Before Darfur, Khartoum waged a similar, 20-year civil war against black Christian southerners. The 2005 peace deal the two sides signed is in danger of collapsing because Khartoum has not implemented some major points on sharing land and oil.

Abyei, one of the three disputed areas (the other two areas are the Nuba Mountains and the Southern Blue Nile): Straddling two states, Abyei has historically been home to the Ngok Dinka, related to the south's Dinka tribe. Arab herders grazed their cattle in the area. In 1905, the British transferred the Ngok kingdoms to northern rule. In the following decades, the once amicable relationship deteriorated as each fought on opposing sides in Sudan's civil wars. Both North and South claim it, but a boundary commission has found it largely belongs to the South, findings Khartoum rejects because most of its oil lies in Abyei. Ignoring the report is tantamount to discarding the peace agreement.

The North-South border: Over several years, Khartoum has gradually pushed down the border, which officially sits at its independence-era line from 1956. The border area is rich in oil, but demarcating it, taking a census, and drawing other district borders are crucial to holding 2009 elections. The North has delayed funding those activities.

Troop redeployment: As part of the peace deal, North and South agreed to redeploy troops stationed in the other's territory. Neither has done so completely, but Khartoum is well behind, leaving 15,000 troops largely on oil fields. As tensions mount, any scuffle between the sides could trigger war.

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