Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Sudan round up: UN confirms SAF attack, SSRC in hot water, and Sudanese migrants returned home

A UN investigation confirmed on Monday 13th December, Southern Sudanese claims that warplanes from the northern-controlled Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) had carried out attacks in locations in Southern Sudan near the joint border this month.

The Southern Sudanese government has complained repeatedly in recent months about bombings taking place. The most recent occurred in Timsaha in Western Bahr al-Ghazal province on 8th December, and while noone was killed, the Southern Sudan government has called for a UN commission of inquiry.

A spokesperson for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), Kouider Zerrouk confirmed the attack: "After verification, it was established by the CJMC members that air attack took place in the vicinity of Timsaha in Western Bahr al-Ghazal and no casualties have been reported."

Southern Sudan said last month that SAF representatives in the ceasefire monitoring body, the Ceasefire Joint Military Committee, which is chaired by the UN, admitted a previous bombing in the area on 14th November. SAF representatives allegedly said that the attack was part of the hunt for Darfur rebels.

Khartoum frequently accuses Southern Sudan publically of supporting and sheltering insurgents from Western Sudan, including Darfur, which borders Western Bahr al-Ghazal. Southern Sudanese officials deny the accusations and say the bombing is meant to increase tension in the north-south Sudan border area in the run up to the January independence referendum.

On 7th December, Southern Sudan minister of information Barnaba Marial Benjamin Bil accused the SAF of working to undermine the referendum by carrying out air attacks in Southern Sudan.

Legal challenge to SSRCOn 8th December, Menas Borders reported that a group of lawyers, backed by the northern ruling party, the National Congress Party (NCP) was seeking to file a lawsuit against the South Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC), arguing that the commission had violated the interim constitution and the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in conducting voter registration.

The lawyers filed their case on Sunday 12th December, and on 14th December, the Sudan Constitutional Court accepted the motion 'in form and content' according to one of the lawyers involved.

Ismail Hassan Haj-Hamad, head of the legal team that filed the challenge said that the next step would be for the court to consider their requests and would order the SSRC to file a response, before issuing a final ruling.

Haj-Hamad was quoted on the Sudanese Media Center (SMC) website saying that they had asked the court to annul all procedures arising out of the voter registration and to immediately halt the work of the SSRC. He said they are requesting the commission to be dissolved and for a new one to be established in line with the Referendum Act of 2009.

The court is expected to rule within three days.

Israel returns Sudanese migrants

In other Sudan related news, Israel confirmed, on Monday 13th December, that it was deporting 150 Sudanese migrants that had entered the country illegally. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has also confirmed that the migrants were being flown back to Sudan, via a third country, and that no coercion was involved.

Israeli officials said over 200 Sudanese had been flown out of the country in recent months after agreeing to return home, but that the operation on Monday was the largest yet.

The Israeli government estimates that over 30,000 Africans have entered the country illegally through its southern border in the last five years. Israel is taking an increasingly tough line with migrants; it is building a barrier along its border with Egypt to try to stop people from crossing illegally and has approved plans to set up a special facility to house those who are detained.

Israel says the migrants, most of whom come from the Horn of Africa, come in search of work, and are threatening local jobs.
Sources: BBC News, Sudan Tribune
For more information on the Sudan, please see menas borders

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