Sudan: More deaths in an unstable South, North suspected of arming groups

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Over 100 people including civilians and soldiers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army have been killed as thousands of ethnic armed men attacked civilians and security forces in a village in southern Sudan. Meanwhile, reports have claimed that 22 of the dead were soldiers, including a military commander. In August, about 185 villagers were killed in inter-ethnic clashes in Southern Sudan. Over 2,000 people have died in similar clashes across the south since January 2009.

The commissioner of Duk County, where the attacks were carried out, said the attack had been part of a campaign against the 2005 peace deal that ended a two-decade war between north and south Sudan.

Commissioner Mayen Ngor, said many rebels from southern Sudan were opposed to the power-sharing government with President Omar al-Bashir’s party in Khartoum, and so the Sunday attacks on civilians and soldiers in the village of Duk Padiet were protest attacks. But some southern politicians believe the government in Khartoum is arming militias in south Sudan in an attempt to destabilize the region and delay the votes for independence, indefinitely.

According to reports, 260 huts had been burned down along with the police station and local government buildings, causing thousands to flee their homes. The internal conflict in southern Sudan has continued due to the fact that the region is made up of a patchwork of rival ethnic groups who have long fought over grazing land, cattle and other resources, but some military officials believe that this recent attack was not over cattle, as many fear that the government in Khartoum is orchestrating the violence.

“This is not a raid for cattle but a militia attack against security forces,” said Major General Kuol Diem Kuol, a military officer in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Khartoum however strongly denies playing any part in the violence in the south.

A referendum due in 2011 on whether South Sudan should secede from the rest of the country is seen as a major turning-point in the country’s history, but many observers suggest that nationwide elections due two years earlier could prove even more important.

The leadership of the former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, which now runs the south, is hoping to decide the country’s future policies. Preparations for the polls are behind schedule but work has begun on a national census, which would enable officials to divide the country into constituencies.

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