April 23, 2012 (JUBA) – The international community has condemned Monday’s bombing of South Sudan by its northern neighbour Sudan as the threat of an all-out war continues to be a possibility following the Friday night withdrawal of South Sudan’s army from the disputed oil-rich border area of Heglig/Panthou.
- Hilde Johnson, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for South South speaking at a press conference on Monday’s bombing of Unity State. 23 April 2012 (UN/Gideon)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the Sudanese bombing campaign calling on "the government of Sudan to cease all hostilities immediately".
He said there would be no military solution to the border dispute and called on the leaders of both sides "to stop the slide toward further confrontation and... to return to dialogue as a matter of urgency".
Sudan’s President Bashir on Monday said that the time for talks was over and that South Sudanese government only understood guns.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Monday condemned the continued aerial bombardments in Bentiu town, which is heavily populated by civilians.
“These indiscriminate bombings resulting in the loss of civilian lives must stop,” said Hilde F. Johnson, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for South Sudan.
“I remind the parties to the conflict of their obligation to abide by international human rights and humanitarian law, take all measures not to harm civilians, and guarantee the safety of international aid organizations and United Nations personnel and assets,” Johnson added.
South Sudan occupied Heglig from April 10-20 in response to what it said was an aggression by Sudan using Heglig as a base from which it carried out ground incursions inside South Sudan.
Khartoum says its troops have been attacked by Sudanese rebels and accuses Juba of supporting them in their efforts to topple the regime.
The United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), European Union (EU) and other friendly countries to South Sudan including the United States (US) condemned Juba’s occupation of the area and called for an immediate withdrawal.
On Friday night Juba announced the unconditional withdrawal of its forces from the area. Khartoum, however, said it defeated the South Sudan forces and retook the town on Friday.
Sudan’s president, Omer Hassen al-Bashir during his visit to Heglig on Monday in a televised speech inside Heglig town urged his army to continue advancing and pushing (SPLA) army deep inside South Sudan.
Since Saturday SAF launched both ground attacks and aerial bombardments inside South Sudan’s territory including the capital of oil-producing Unity State, Bentiu. For three consecutive days from Saturday, one day after the withdrawal, South Sudan said Khartoum has been carrying out aerial bombardments, killing and maiming civilians in Unity State.
On Monday top UN and US diplomats in Juba expressed condemnation of Khartoum’s renewed ground and air attacks into South Sudan despite the withdrawal of the SPLA from the area.
The US acting ambassador to South Sudan, Christopher Datta in a meeting with South Sudan’s Vice President Riek Machar on Monday expressed his government’s condemnation of Khartoum’s actions, adding that the US administration in Washington was going to issue a statement condemning the continuous attacks on South Sudan.
Johnson also held a meeting with Machar on Monday in which she also appealed to the two countries to show restraint and avoid sliding back to war. A two-decade conflict up to 2005 affected the whole region leading two million deaths and the displacement of four million people.