Published: 10:00 GMT Daylight Time - Thursday 10 May 2012
Hopes of a ceasefire, after weeks of border clashes, were raised when the two countries endorsed the African Union’s (AU) seven-point plan on 3 May.
This called for the resumption of stalled negotiations and gave Sudan and South Sudan three months to reach an agreement. They need to resolve outstanding disputes over the border region, citizenship matters and oil revenue.
The agreement followed a UN Security Council resolution on 2 May that gave the two nations 48 hours to stop fighting, threatening sanctions if they continued hostilities.
Sudan welcomed the resolution but warned that it retained the right to defend itself against “aggression” from the South. Both sides continue to accuse the other of being the aggressor; Sudan has called for South Sudan to withdraw its troops from disputed border areas, while the latter says that the former persists in bombing its territories.
Juba’s information minister said:
Khartoum is bombing civilian targets, killing women and children and destroying the property of very simple people in these areas.
After several weeks of fighting, there have been growing fears of a return to the civil war that devastated the mainly Christian South and left more than two million people, mostly Southern Christians, dead.
While the AU roadmap and UN resolution represent some progress, this remains a tense and dangerous time for Christians, both those in Sudan, where they are treated with great suspicion and hostility, and those in South Sudan whose memories of the brutal, decades-long civil war are still raw.
An estimated 350,000 people from South Sudan are stranded in Sudan; they were stripped of their citizenship of Sudan after the South voted to secede and had been given a deadline of 8 April to regularise their status or leave. Many lack the resources to return to the South, and exit routes have been blocked off because of the hostilities between the two nations.
But there is now hope for at least 12,000 refugees who have been stuck for months in a camp in the town of Kosti in White Nile State. The International Organisation for Migration said last week that it will transport them to Khartoum by bus and then fly them to South Sudan’s capital, Juba.
The governor of White Nile state had set a deadline of 5 May, later extended to 20 May, for the South Sudanese refugees to leave; he declared them a security risk following the brief occupation by South Sudanese troops of the disputed Sudanese border town and oil field of Heglig last month.
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