The attack on Umm Ruwaba on April 27th is a clear sign of the deepening seriousness of the Sudanese Government’s military situation . It is interesting to notice that this unprecedented attack on an important North Kordofan town came just in the wake of the failed conversations between that same SPLM-North and the Sudanese Government in Addis Ababa (see our last posting on April 24th) . Why did the conversation fail ? Yasser Arman and his delegation just wanted to reopen a channel for humanitarian aid to go to the combat zones. The NCP regime , which is getting more and more anxious by the day , wanted a global “security” discussion , particularly on the help it accuses Juba of providing to SPLM-North (probably true , even if this is not the choice of President Salva Kiir) . Yasser refused the global discussion , Khartoum refused the purely humanitarian one , everybody went home and the SPLM-North immediately attacked Umm Ruwaba , the smaller town of Abu Karchola and tried to reach the el-Obeid airport . This resulted in four days of battle (April 25th to 28th) the (temporary) cutting of the Khartoum–el-Obeid highway and a significant number of casualties (the figures are conflicting but it must have been a minimum of 100-120) . The “victory” of the FAS was only achieved through the use of air power , as it felt hard pressed to hold the ground . The lessons of this are several :
- Conversations between the NCP and the SPLM-N are at a dead end and unlikely to restart in any meaningful fashion
- The government finds it harder and harder to hold its ground facing the insurrections , all the way from Darfur to the Blue Nile .
- The FAS are short of manpower and have to rely more and more on the Air Force
- Poorly controlled panic is beginning to gain momentum in top NCP circles
- The actual functional reopening of the oil pipeline to Port Sudan is beginning to look like a port of last hope .