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Sudan declares war on South Sudan: Will this draw in East Africa, and China? (+video)

After South Sudan seizes Heglig oil fields, which both countries claim, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declares war. How can international community prevent a regional conflict?

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / April 19, 2012

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says he's ready to 'liberate' South Sudan. Is this a declaration of war?

Less than a year after South Sudan gained its official independence, the new country is at war with its rival, Sudan.

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Although relations between the two countries started out well, hostilities had been brewing almost from the very beginning, over how the two countries would share revenues from the sale of oil – most of which is now within South Sudan’s territory, and all of which must be transported through Sudan’s oil pipelines to foreign markets. The final spark, though, appears to have been over the borders between the two countries. South Sudan had long banked on receiving the Abyei region, including the oil fields nearby at Heglig. Last week, South Sudanese troops took Heglig by force, prompting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to proclaim a state of war.

While there is no formal declaration of war, Bashir told troops at a rally that they would be marching to Juba, South Sudan's capital.

"Heglig isn't the end, it is the beginning,” President Bashir was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying on a Thursday visit to South Kordofan state, where Sudan is facing a separatist rebellion by Nuba Mountain militants. “And we shall go all the way to Juba."

This is no mere fight between siblings over an inheritance.

South Sudan is resource rich and has assiduously cultivated friendships with its southern neighbors, Uganda and Kenya. South Sudan maintains close military and trade ties with Uganda’s leader, Yoweri Museveni, and it has also proposed to build a new oil pipeline to the sea at the Kenyan port of Lamu. South Sudan has also been rumored to support the Darfur rebel group Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). And Time magazine this week reported witnessing JEM fighters in Heglig alongside members of South Sudan’s own Sudanese People’s Liberation Army troops.

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