An attack on south Sudan positions which left four southern Sudanese soldiers and two civilians wounded, has been described by the south as an effort by the north to disrupt the south’s independence referendum. The situation has prompted the United Nations to consider the deployment of a 2,000 peacekeeping force to the region.
"Sudan Armed Forces helicopter gunship attacked Sudan people’s Libertion Army (SPLA) positions at Kiirabem, in North Bahr al-Ghazal, wounding four SPLA soldiers and two civilians.
"The intention of the SAF in this move is to try to disrupt the referendum process," spokesman for the ex-rebel SPLA, Philip Aguer was quoted as saying.
South Sudan’s Salv Kiir, had asked the UN Secuirty Council to approve a U.N. monitored buffer zone along the semi-autonomous south’s border with the north.
And following Wednesday’s attack by north Sudan on south Sudan, the United Nations said it is considering sending up to 2,000 more peacekeepers to southern Sudan to boost security.
North Sudan has not yet consented to the proposal which would increase the 10,000-strong U.N. Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) force to a maximum of 12,000 peacekeepers.
However, some analysts say north Sudan is reluctant to agree to the deployment of more peacekeepers in the South because it could be seen as an outright acceptance of southern independence.
Diplomats told reporters it would be impossible to create a full-scale buffer zone along Sudan’s lengthy internal frontier, but they hoped the presence of additional blue helmets along the border would reduce outbreaks of violence.
The plan to deploy more peacekeeping troops in Sudan, would require official approval by the 15-nation Security Council.
Meanwhile, leaders of both north and south Sudan continue to accuse each other of building up troops in the border region. While the oil-rich and predominantly Christian South is likely to vote for secession, the Muslim North would like to keep the country whole.
"All these open provocations and violations of SAF are deliberately designed to drag Sudan back to war, to justify the impossibility of conducting the referendum in the south and in Abyei.
"The SPLA reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the permanent ceasefire," the SPLA spokesman added referring to the accord signed in 2005 that ended a 22-year war between north and south Sudan.
The recent attack comes weeks after both north and south Sudan vowed to avoid war whatever the outcome of the January 9 referendum which might sustain or divide the country. However, both sides have since clashed in the Darfur region, with Sudan army accusing the southern armed forces of aiding Darfuri rebels.
Nonetheles, registration for the January referendum is currently taking place at nearly 3,000 sites across the north and south of Sudan, as well as in eight other countries including Egypt, Kenya, Britain and the United States.