April 23, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir has given his army a carte blanche to use “the language of the gun” against neighbouring South Sudan in retaliation to the latter’s occupation of the disputed Heglig region two weeks ago.
“I direct the army to restore [our] rights and repulse any aggression from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army [SPLA] of the south on any inch of the country and at any time” Bashir declared while addressing dozens of ululating Sudanese troopers at the station of Martyr Al-Fadil in Heglig on Monday.
Heglig was occupied almost two weeks ago by the SPLA before being liberated on Friday by the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), according to Khartoum, whereas Juba said it voluntarily withdrew troops in response to international pressure.
The fighting around Heglig, which contains oilfields accounting for almost half of Sudan’s daily output of 115,000 barrels, sparked fears of a full-scale war between the two neighbours as well as heightened war rhetoric, especially on the part of Khartoum.
Al-Bashir, who arrived in Heglig unannounced to inspect the damage Khartoum accused Juba of inflicting on the town’s oil facilities, reiterated that there will be no return to talking with South Sudan unless its ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) is gone.
“One of us has to go” he said before adding that our “dialogue with these people will be through the gun because they only understand the language of the gun.”
The Sudanese president renewed threats against Juba as his air forces bombed three areas in South Sudan’s Unity State on Monday, killing three people.
Bashir, dressed in military uniform, further said he had ordered the army to “purge” Sudan’s borders from rebels.
His statement coincides with reports that Sudanese forces clashed on Monday with rebels of the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) which fights in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states on the borders with South Sudan.
Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting the Sudanese rebels who fought as part of the SPLA before South Sudan’s independence but the SPLM says it has already severed links with its former comrades-in-arms.
Al-Bashir promised to teach South Sudan a “final lesson” and award them a “doctorate in treachery, perfidy and cowardice.”
The Sudanese president routinely accuses Juba of failing to appreciate what he describes as Khartoum’s fulfillment of its commitment under the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) to allow South Sudan’s to secede.
Al-Bashir was accompanied in his visit to Heglig by a cohort of close aides and senior ministers, including Presidential Assistant Nafie Ali Nafie and Abdel-Rahman Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, Minister of presidential affairs Bakri Hassan Salih, the minister of defense Abdel-Rahim Mohammed Hussain.
In a related context, SAF’s commander-in-chief of “Heglig Liberation Operation”, Kamal Marof, said that more than 1,200 SPLA soldiers were killed in the alleged battle. Juba denies the figure.
Also, SAF’s chief of staff Ismat Abdel-Rahman threatened on Monday that South Sudan will pay the price of damaging oil infrastructure in Heglig.
“The damages they have committed against oil facilities will not go unpunished and they will get to taste it.”
South Sudan says the damage was caused by SAF bombing, while they were occupying the area and not by their forces.