Tuesday, 1 March 2011

10 killed in clashes in Sudan's Abyei region

At least 10 people were killed in clashes between Arab nomads, militia fighters and police in Sudan's flashpoint Abyei region on 27th February, officials said, in the first report of significant violence since a tentative peace deal.

Both north and south Sudan claim the oil-producing area of Abyei, one of the most likely sources of potential conflict in the build-up to the secession of southern Sudan, due in July.

Fighting in Abyei between Misseriya nomads, linked to the north, and the south-linked Dinka Ngok people marred the start of voting in a referendum in January that saw the south vote for independence.

Later in the month, both sides reached a deal promising to pay blood money for earlier clashes and open up migration routes for livestock. Northern and southern leaders promised to hammer out a settlement on who owned Abyei.

Abyei's chief administrator Deng Arop Kuol, from the Dinka Ngok, told Reuters a group of Misseriya, backed by militia fighters, attacked the settlement of Todach in the early hours of Sunday morning, 27th February.

Kuol said the militia were part of the Khartoum-backed Popular Defence Forces.

"There are senior figures in the government who are inciting people to fight ... We don't know really what they are aiming at. Do they want to disrupt the (north-south border) demarcation process, or the process of the separation of the south?"

Senior Misseriya official Saddig Babo Nimr accused south Sudan's army of starting the fighting by attacking a nomadic camp north of Abyei, adding the fighting continued on Monday.

"You would have to ask the SPLA (southern army) why. From my perspective, they want to evacuate the area of Arabs ... I think the Misseriya are reinforcing."

Spokesmen from Sudan's northern and southern armies and the north's ruling National Congress Party denied any involvement.

UN peacekeepers visited the site and confirmed attackers, reported to be Misseriya, opened fire twice on a police station on Monday 28th February, killing seven, according to UN spokeswomen Hua Jiang.

Kuol said three attackers were also killed on Sunday, adding he was still waiting for details of Monday's fighting in Todach.

Kuol said there had been little progress in rolling out January's Dinka-Misseriya peace deal. Sunday's clash came days after a meeting between Dinka and Misseriya leaders ended without agreement, he added.

Abyei was a battleground in the decades-long civil war between north and south Sudan that ended in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement - an accord that promised the southern secession referendum.

Abyei residents were promised their own vote on whether to join the north or south. That plebiscite never took place after disagreements over who was qualified to vote and the failure to agree on the members of an organising commission.

Northern and southern leaders were due to meet in the Ethiopian town of Debre Zeit this week to try to resolve other issues, including the division of national debts, the position of their shared border and payments for transporting southern oil through the north to Port Sudan.

Source: Reuters

For more information, see the Menas Borders website, here.

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