By Abdelmoneim Abu Edris Ali / AFP
KHARTOUM: Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir voiced doubt on Thursday over UN talk of sanctions against South Sudan, but said his country will impose a punishment of its own for deadly clashes along the border.
Keeping up war rhetoric which has drawn expressions of concern from the United States, Bashir told a rally of paramilitary troops that Sudan will teach “a lesson by force” to the South Sudanese government.
“America will not invoke sanctions on them, and the (UN) Security Council will not, but the Sudanese people are going to punish them,” declared Bashir, who holds the rank of field marshal and was dressed in desert camouflage and a beret.
On Tuesday, the Security Council discussed possible sanctions against both Sudan and South Sudan in a bid to halt a wider war after border fighting broke out on April 10.
Clashes erupted last month along the disputed frontier but escalated last week with waves of air strikes hitting the South, and Juba’s seizure of Sudan’s main oilfield, Heglig.
“We will teach them a lesson by force,” Bashir said of the South Sudanese government. “Heglig is not the end. It is the beginning.”
The United States on Wednesday voiced concern and called for an immediate halt to the fighting after Bashir threatened to topple South Sudan’s “insect” government.
“We call it an insect… trying to destroy Sudan, and our main target from today is to eliminate this insect completely,” Bashir said at a youth rally on Wednesday in support of troops who hope to reclaim Heglig.
His remarks came on the same day that Princeton Lyman, the US special envoy on Sudan and South Sudan, was visiting the region in an effort to ease tensions that have raised fears of a return to all-out war.
“Given the escalation of violence over the past few weeks, given the rhetoric that’s being thrown about, we’re very concerned,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters when asked about Bashir’s remarks.
Lyman was due in Khartoum on Thursday.
On Monday, Sudan’s parliament voted unanimously to brand the government of South Sudan an enemy. It has also declared a “mobilization and alert” of the population.
Bashir, shouting and gesticulating with a traditional staff, spoke on Thursday in the North Kordofan capital El Obeid to hundreds of freshly trained male and female members of the paramilitary People’s Defence Force (PDF).
The PDF is a mainstay of Sudan’s fighting forces.
Some of the troops rode camels. They danced to martial music and shouted in praise of God.
Under the mobilization program launched as tensions with South Sudan rose last month, Bashir ordered the states to field new PDF battalions.
The United Nations, the United States and the European Union have criticized the South’s occupation of Heglig but have equally denounced Sudan’s air strikes against the South.
There are widespread fears that the fighting will spread.
It is already the worst since South Sudan won independence in July after a 1983-2005 civil war which killed two million people.
While Bashir forecasts an imminent victory, the foreign ministry says Sudan is pursuing both military and diplomatic measures to get South Sudan out of Heglig.
Sudan’s military has released virtually no information about the situation on the ground but South Sudan has vowed to hold its positions in the oilfield, despite air strikes against its forces.