Southern Sudan Fighting Displaces 20,000 in Jonglei, UN Rights Expert Says
Clashes between Southern Sudan’s army and rebels in Jonglei state over the past two months killed more than 200 people and displaced as many as 20,000, an expert of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council said.
Fighting in the region has intensified with “at least 16 incidents of violence” since almost 99 percent of Southern Sudanese voters chose in a Jan. 9 referendum to secede from the rest of Sudan, Mohamed Chande Othman said today in an e-mailed statement.
“The government of Southern Sudan has a primary responsibility to ensure the protection of civilians even as it embarks on measures to address the insecurity in the region,” he said.
The fighting in Jonglei started following the collapse of a Jan. 5 cease-fire agreement signed between the authorities in Juba, the regional capital, and George Athor, a former chief of staff of Southern Sudan’s army. Athor first took up arms against the government after he lost a state election in April.
Southern Sudan is due to gain independence on July 9 and assume control of about three-quarters of Sudan’s current oil production of 490,000 barrels a day, pumped mainly by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp. Sudan had 5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves as of January 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Before Southern Sudan and the north signed a peace accord in 2005, the region had been the scene of fighting for all but 11 years since Sudan’s independence from the U.K. in 1956. While the referendum on independence passed off peacefully, the clashes with rebel forces show the area remains unstable.
Following attacks on March 12 by another rebel militia in Upper Nile state, Southern Sudan’s ruling party announced it was suspending talks with President Umar al-Bashir’s government in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, over issues such as oil-revenue sharing, citizenship and border demarcation.
Pagan Amum, the secretary-general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, accused al-Bashir’s government of funding, training and arming rebel militias in the south to overthrow the administration in Juba.
Southern Sudan is investigating alternatives to the north, its only current export route, to ship its oil, Amum told reporters on March 12 in Khartoum. Sudan’s only oil refineries and the sole export route runs north from oilfields to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.
Sudan’s government denied the accusations. The clashes in the south are a result of tensions in the region and it’s the southern government’s responsibility to defuse them, Salah Gosh, al-Bashir’s adviser for security affairs, told reporters in Khartoum yesterday.
“These problems are not impossible to solve, but the SPLM doesn’t want to solve them due to reasons related to internal conflicts,” Gosh said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Maram Mazen in Khartoum at [email protected].
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at [email protected].