|South Sudan is due to separate on 9th July|
Monday, 13 June 2011
Southern Kordofan fighting spreads into South Sudan's Unity State
South Sudan has accused the northern military of bombing its territory in Unity State on Monday 13th June, after fighting in the northern border state of Southern Kordofan spread across the border.
The northern army has been fighting southern-aligned troops in Southern Kordofan since 5th June, causing more than 50,000 people to flee the state, according to UN estimates.
Aerial bombardments and heavy artillery attacks were reported on Friday and Monday in Unity State, while fighting continues to rage in Kadugli, Southern Kordofan's state capital.
Ruling parties in north and south Sudan have blamed each other for the fighting in Southern Kordofan, the north's largest oil producing state.
The Southern Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement (SPLM) has said fighting began when the northern army tried to disarm fighters. The northern army has blamed southern-aligned armed groups for provoking the clashes. They also said Sudan Peoples' Liberation Army (SPLA) forces attacked a local police station and stole a number of weapons.
South Sudan voted to separate from the north in a January independence referendum, required by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which brought decades of civil war to an end.
But the situation is more complicated in a number of border states, such as Southern Kordofan, which is clearly in the north, but whose residents often sided with southern-based rebels during the war.
Another issue of tension is the oil-rich Abyei state, which is claimed by both sides. Abyei was due to have its own referendum in January on whether to join the north or the south, but it was postponed indefinitely, due to disagreements over voter eligibility.
The Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) took over Abyei town on 21st May, after an ambush by SPLA forces, and has occupied it since.
According to the Sudan Tribune, an African Union-sponsored summit in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on June 12-13th has resulted Sudan's President Omar Al-Bashir agreeing to withdraw his troops from Abyei, although this has not been confirmed.
An unnamed diplomat was quoted as saying, “President Bashir has agreed to pull his troops out before 9th July with Ethiopia sending two battalions as peacekeepers. They will be deployed under the UN flag.”
The meeting was between al-Bashir and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir. It was mediated by former South African president Thabo Mbeki and Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
Human rights groups have warned that southerners are being targeted by pro-northern forces in Southern Kordofan state. Amnesty International's Tawanda Hondora was quoted by the BBC as saying “We think this is the start of what might be ethnic cleansing of South Kordofan, Unity State and Abyei, with the precise purpose of ensuring that, come independence, the areas will not have people who are perceived to be sympathetic to the south.”
South Sudan is due to separate from the north on 9th July.
Sources: African Union, BBC News, Reuters, Sudan Tribune
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