Less than a year after South Sudan declared its independence, it appears headed for war once again with its northern neighbour, Sudan. At the same time, marginalised northerners are rebelling against the government of Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.
The international community has called for a cease-fire and peace talks, but the return of violence is not necessarily a bad thing. Soldiers killing one another in war would be far less devastating than thousands of women and children starving to death while waiting for a negotiated peace that will never come.
Mr Bashir’s government cannot be trusted. It has for years systematically betrayed its agreements — signing dozens of treaties and then violating them.
Paradoxically, an all-out civil war in Sudan may be the best way to permanently oust Bashir and minimise casualties. If a low-intensity conflict rages on, it will lead to a humanitarian disaster.
Sudan’s recurring wars don’t stem from religious conflict but from the Arab government’s exploitation of various non-Arab groups on the country’s periphery – including the southern Christians and predominantly Muslim groups like the Darfuris in the west, the Bejas in the east, the Nubians in the north, and the Nuba in Kordofan.
These peripheral regions have been exploited by Khartoum since the 19th century. But until recently, the South was the only region aware of this exploitation because it was neither Arab nor Islamic.
Whenever foreign leaders demand greater respect for human rights or peace talks, Sudan always agrees, because agreeing makes the international community happy.
But we forget too quickly. A year ago northern Sudanese forces invaded the disputed town of Abyei on the eve of South Sudan’s independence; they later agreed to withdraw, but they never left.
The status quo is not working, regardless of what American and United Nations officials might believe.
Mr Bashir recently referred to the black leaders of South Sudan as “insects” and insisted that Sudan must “eliminate this insect completely.”
For those who remember Rwanda and the racist insults hurled by Bashir’s janjaweed militias during their brutal attacks in Darfur, his vile words should be a wake-up call.
Indeed, without some moral common ground, “negotiations” are merely a polite way of acquiescing to evil, especially when one’s interlocutors are pathologically incapable of respecting their own word.
And in the case of a murderer like Mr Bashir, there is no moral common ground. Sudan has now reached its point of no return.
Many Arabs across northern Sudan have become fed up with the jingoistic frenzy now being deployed by their exhausted tyranny and are quietly waiting for a chance to join the revolt begun by non-Arab Muslims.
The rebels battling Bashir’s government are waging a real battle for freedom, and their de facto alliance with southern Christians could finally bring Sudan’s endless conflict to a close.
War is a tragic affair, but the brave Sudanese men who have chosen it as a last resort deserve to be allowed to find their own way toward a Sudanese Spring, even if it is a violent one.
Prunier is former director of the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies in Addis Ababa and author of ‘Darfur: A 21st Century Genocide’