Tribal war has continued to widen the divide between North and South, as well as tribes of South Sudan, buttressing the necessity for division, and the complexity of state civility, come 2011: Villagers from the southern Lou Nuer community went fishing south of Akobo town when fellow southern Murle ethnicity fighters attacked them, killing 185 people including women, children and soldiers from the south Sudan army.
Violence over land and cattle in South Sudan is exacerbated by a ready supply of weapons following the end of the civil war with the North in 2005, however, tensions have continued to grow in the north-south unity government, and amongst the southern tribes. Distrust remains high amongst southerners, still divided by the ethnic, ideological and cultural differences.
The southern politicians accuse the north of backing proxy militias it once supported in the civil war. The politicians claim that the northern government in Khartoum wants to ferment southern divisions to scupper an independence vote, ahead of the 2011 referendum. But northern politicians deny the accusations, claiming southern politicians want to shift the blame for their failure to establish peace and restore security in the south. Who is really responsible for the unrest, and what lies ahead for Sudan, is unclear.
Experts and observers have warned that the clashes are not simply localised battles, but a back-paddle towards the bloody conflict the country just emerged from, four years ago. The stability of the 2005 peace deal that ended Sudan’s 22-year long north-south civil war, in which some 2 million people died, seems to be unended afterall. Rivalries such as those in Upper Nile, a region already awash with weapons, need little encouragement to spark fresh conflicts.
The villagers had gone fishing in a neighboring village because their food supplies were running out, and were attacked. According to Akobo commissioner, Goi Jooyul, Yol: “The attack was well coordinated and planned, and there was a lot of reconnaissance before the attack because they knew exactly who they were targeting. There may still be bodies in the bush, we don’t yet know the full number.”
According to the United Nations, several hundred people have died in such clashes this year – more than in Sudan’s Darfur conflict. Elections are due in April 2010, and then a 2011 independence referendum is due for the south, which may split North and South Sudan.
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