The Heglig Oil Conflict: An Exercise of Sovereignty or an Act of Aggression?

"This policy brief examines the hostile interaction between the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan triggered by South Sudan’s invasion of the Heglig oilfield. The cumbersome nature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the apparent ineffectiveness of the African Union (AU) High Implementation Panel have led to the adoption of unilateral policy positions by both parties to the disputed areas. South Sudan’s occupation of Heglig is perhaps rooted in the tardiness with which the implementation process has been carried out. Suffice it to note that the religious, sociological and political discontinuities between the north and south of Sudan presuppose the display of antagonistic cleavages which have persisted to post colonial times. The Sudan was a colonial construct which lacked the necessary ingredients for a strong and united country. The post-colonial political elite’s marginalisation of the periphery has eroded any sense of national belonging within the Sudanese psyche. For the southerners, a sense of alienation from the centre is rooted in the history of the plundering of its natural resources and slavery by northerners and a continued policy of cultural oppression since independence. This brief provides an analytical narrative to ascertain whether South Sudan’s occupation of the Heglig oilfield was an act of aggression or an exercise of sovereignty. We conclude with some policy recommendations."