It is a tactic beloved of despots: while the world's attention is on one bloody conflict, you can slaughter with impunity elsewhere... Since mid-December the media has watched as the world's newest nation, South Sudan, has torn itself apart. Meanwhile, its old oppressor next door in Sudan is enthusiastically grasping the chance to "end" its own troublesome "rebellion".
The latest civil conflict within newly-independent South Sudan is a depressing, avoidable tragedy. This is a part of Africa that has already fought two 'civil' wars in pursuit of independence. It is chronically poor and suffers the worlds highest infant and maternal mortality - and female illiteracy.
Sudanese have plenty of reasons to demonstrate against the disastrous state of the country's finances; inflation is running at 40% and years of oil revenues have been frittered away. Beyond the capital, Khartoum, there has been little investment in infrastructure, education or heath facilities. Unemployment and under-employment have demoralised those millions who do not benefit from the crony capitalism that has sustained the ruling elite for decades.
Dahabbaya Idris and her two young children share a single room in her mother's home in Al-Hilla Al-Jadeeda, a suburb of Omdurman, Sudan. Just a few houses down lies the rubble that was once her home, a mud house which completely disintegrated under the force of the heavy rains that have plagued Sudan over the last month...
We're no longer the same UN. We're more and more in conflict zones. And we've taken certain decisions that mean we're no longer seen as neutral. The UN flag is now a target instead of a shield. That means we have to change how we go about things, because right now our colleagues and their families are paying too high a price.
The inability to work together effectively has cost Sudan and South Sudan dear. The 15-month oil blockade imposed by South Sudan in January 2012 brought both economies to their knees. Whilst the rest of sub-Saharan Africa saw annual GDP grow between 5 and 6% in 2012, GDP fell by a shocking 55% in South Sudan and nearly 1% in Sudan.
I just got back from visiting IRC programmes in Kenya. It was an inspiring and in some ways harrowing visit. The country is the heart of East Africa: when Somalia or (South) Sudan is unstable, Kenya feels the impact, and when Kenya is struggling, it impacts the rest of the sub region... The refugees I talked to spoke of fighting in disputed lands on the South Sudan/Sudan border, and long term violence against the Nuba people.