THE NEW NATION of South Sudan was on the brink of war this week with Sudan, the country it split from just eight months ago. In heavy fighting Monday and Tuesday, Sudan’s planes bombed border areas in South Sudan, while South Sudan’s troops briefly seized an oil-producing area north of the border. Tensions eased a little Wednesday, with both governments saying they wished to avoid an all-out conflict. But the two Sudans are already the site of a budding, and largely neglected, humanitarian catastrophe — one that has produced tens of thousands of refugees, an imminent famine and a boost in the world oil price.
The underlying cause of the trouble is disputes over borders and resources that remained unresolved when South Sudan declared independence last July. South Sudan was left with most of the former country’s oil reserves, but its exports travel through pipelines in Sudan. The two governments have been unable to agree on how to divide the revenue, and South Sudan shut down its oil production last month — costing the global market 135,000 barrels a day and denying one of the world’s most impoverished countries 98 percent of its income.