"The situation in Juba is not quiet. The population is very concerned about what is happening on the border between South Sudan and Sudan" reports Catholic Archbishop Paulino Lukudu Loro of Juba, the capital of South Sudan.
Sudan and South Sudan, which until 2011 were one country albeit in constant civil war, continue to exchange accusations over Heglig, the oil-producing area on the disputed border between the two states. Heglig was recently recaptured by Sudanese troops from Khartoum after fierce fighting, in which, according to the Sudanese, about 1,200 soldiers have died near Juba (a figure denied by the South Sudan authorities). Sudanese air forces continue to bombard areas within the area controlled by the government in Juba.
"The southern Sudanese government has mobilized more troops to be sent to the border. There are movements of soldiers around Juba" says Archbishop Lukudu Loro. "In the face of these attacks-added the Archbishop - our government is concerned about the safety of the South Sudanese citizens, while the same southern Sudanese are upset with the irresponsible speeches by President Bashir of Sudan."
Sudanese President Omar al Bashir, visiting Heglig, said: "No negotiation with these people (the leaders of the South, ed). With them we only negotiate with rifles and bullets." In 2011, Al-Bashir vowed to impose Islamic law, or sharia, over the whole of Sudan and thus precipitated the final breakup into two jurisdictions. The north is mainly inhabited by Muslims, many of whom are Arab in ethnicity, while South Sudan is characterized by Christian and animist sub-Saharan black Africans.
According to Archbishop Lukudu Loro "the people of South Sudan do not want war. This is an economic conflict for the control of oil. South Sudan is ready to reach an agreement with Sudan on oil. But what has disappointed the southern Sudanese is the attitude of the UN, of the African Union and other Western countries on the issue of Heglig."
In my opinion, these organizations have made premature statements without knowing the reality. In particular, we must understand exactly where Heglig is: is it in South Sudan or Sudan? Representatives of these international institutions must go there to clarify this point, to demarcate precisely the boundary between the two countries" said the Archbishop.
Sudanese who are southern in origin continue to flee from the north. On April 21, Muslim mobs attacked a Catholic parish in Khartoum - the capital of Sudan - and burned down the church. It had served mostly southerners, and Ethiopians.
"The humanitarian situation is worsening because the rainy season has started, making it very difficult to carry out rescue operations to the people fleeing the fighting areas," said Archbishop Lukudu Loro. "In the city of Juba, there are serious problems in the delivery of electricity and other essential services. But the people are trying to help their brothers and sisters in need," he concluded.