Sudan: Bashir threatens south over Abyei

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir addressing supporters in January 2011
Image caption President Omar al-Bashir had promised to be the first to recognise South Sudan

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has threatened not to recognise the new state of South Sudan if it tries to claim the disputed Abyei region.

South Sudan will become independent in July after deciding in a referendum to split from the north.

Oil-producing Abyei should also have had a vote in January on whether to join north or south, but it was delayed by a dispute over who should vote.

An estimated 1.5 million people died in the two-decade north-south civil war.

There have been several deadly clashes in Abyei since January, when the referendum was supposed to have been held under the terms of the 2005 peace accord that ended the civil war.

'We shall not let go an inch'

For months, President Bashir has insisted he would be the first to recognise the new country of South Sudan when it secedes on 9 July.

But the BBC's James Copnall in Khartoum says neither the north nor the south has shown any sign of backing down over Abyei.

A draft version of South Sudan's interim constitution explicitly claims Abyei is in the south.

President Bashir, and the Arab Misseriya nomads, are equally adamant the region is in the north.

A southern ethnic group, the Dinka Ngok, are permanent residents of the region, but the Misseriya spend part of every year in Abyei as they seek green pastures for their cattle.

The president made the remarks in Southern Kordofan, a state which borders Abyei, and has a large Misseriya population.

"Abyei is not a Misseriya issue... not a Dinka issue even. This is a Sudanese issue, it is part of Sudanese land. It is part of this north Sudan land. We shall not let go of any inch," Mr Bashir told his supporters at a rally.

"If there is any map, or attempt, to include Abyei in the constitution of the new country, we shall never ever recognise that new country," he said.

The Misseriya and Dinka Ngok often clash, allegedly with the support of the northern and southern armies.

Our correspondent says the fear is that a localised conflict in Abyei could fracture the fragile north-south peace.

Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan's budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.

Satellite image showing geography of Sudan, source: Nasa

Although they were united for many years, the two Sudans were always very different. The great divide is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Map showing Ethnicity of Sudan, source:

Sudan's arid north is mainly home to Arabic-speaking Muslims. But in South Sudan there is no dominant culture. The Dinkas and the Nuers are the largest of more than 200 ethnic groups, each with its own languages and traditional beliefs, alongside Christianity and Islam.

Map showing infant Mortality in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The health inequalities in Sudan are illustrated by infant mortality rates. In South Sudan, one in 10 children die before their first birthday. Whereas in the more developed northern states, such as Gezira and White Nile, half of those children would be expected to survive.

Map showing percentage of households using improved water and sanitation in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

The gulf in water resources between north and south is stark. In Khartoum, River Nile, and Gezira states, two-thirds of people have access to piped drinking water and pit latrines. In the south, boreholes and unprotected wells are the main drinking sources. More than 80% of southerners have no toilet facilities whatsoever.

Map showing percentage of who complete primary school education in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Throughout the two Sudans, access to primary school education is strongly linked to household earnings. In the poorest parts of the south, less than 1% of children finish primary school. Whereas in the wealthier north, up to 50% of children complete primary level education.

Map showing percentage of households with poor food consumption in Sudan, source: Sudan household health survey 2006

Conflict and poverty are the main causes of food insecurity in both countries. In Sudan, many of the residents of war-affected Darfur and the border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan, depend on food aid. The UN said about 2.8m people in South Sudan would require food aid in 2013. The northern states tend to be wealthier, more urbanised and less reliant on agriculture.

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