Global Policy Forum

139 Die in Southern Sudan Tribal Clashes

Picture credit: Al Jazeera

The already unstable peace-agreement in Sudan has taken a further major hit.  At least 139 people have been killed in tribal clashes between the Nuer and the Dinka in Souther Sudan.  Aid groups in the country are calling for international action to avert a humanitarian disaster and a return to civil war.





By Xan Rice and Mark Tran


January 7, 2010

At least 139 people have been killed in the latest outburst of tribal violence that is threatening the stability of southern Sudan.

Armed Nuer men attacked Dinka herders on Saturday in Tonj, one of the most remote parts of the autonomous south, stealing 5,000 cattle.

"They killed 139 people and wounded 54. Nobody knows how many attackers were killed. But it may be many as a lot of people came to fight," Sabino Makana, the deputy governor of Warrap state, told Reuters.

Different ethnic groups in the region have long clashed in cattle raids and disputes over land. Since 2008 the tribal violence has proved especially deadly, with 2,500 people killed and 350,000 forced from their homes.

News of the violence came after aid groups warned today that without urgent international diplomacy to support a fragile peace deal in Sudan, the south of the country would suffer a humanitarian disaster.

The appeal from Oxfam and other NGOs for urgent diplomacy comes as Africa's largest country marks the fifth anniversary of the January 2005 comprehensive peace agreement (CPA), signed by Sudan's central government and the southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

The deal, brokered by outside powers, ended one of Africa's longest conflicts - a civil war between north and south that began in 1983 and has claimed an estimated 2 million lives, driven 4 million people from their homes and destabilised much of east Africa.

Aid groups fear that tensions ahead of planned elections in April and a referendum in southern Sudan next year - tensions that will almost certainly result in secession - could kill off the CPA and unleash renewed strife.

Earlier this week Ghazi Salaheddin, a senior adviser to the president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, raised the spectre of all-out hostilities when he warned that the 2011 referendum would lead to a new war unless key questions about the north-south border, nationality, the sharing of oil wealth and foreign debts of $30bn (£18.8bn) were settled.

Most of Sudan's oil fields straddle the north-south border, which has yet to be demarcated, while hundreds of thousands of southerners in the north, and northerners living in the south, would be left in limbo if their nationalities were left undefined. Salaheddin also highlighted the problem of whether a separate south would respect international agreements, citing the example of a deal with Egypt over Nile waters.

In a joint briefing paper, the aid groups said: "With landmark elections and a referendum on the horizon, the peace deal is fragile and the violence likely to escalate even further unless there is urgent international engagement."

Last year's death toll of 2,500 was higher than that in Darfur, in the west, where the humanitarian situation is already dire. "Many of the victims have been women and children," Oxfam said. "In one attack, in a village in Jonglei state in August 2009, some 161 people were killed, most of them women and children."

The CPA, which established the semi-autonomous government of southern Sudan in the regional capital, Juba, and in the 10 southern states, included an interim period of six years (2005 to 2011), during which the parties committed to meet several benchmarks and to address contentious issues left unresolved during the negotiations, such as the demarcation of the oil-rich north-south border.

According to aid groups, guarantors of the CPA, including the US, the EU and the UN, have been distracted by the crisis in Darfur and have failed to take a tough stand in response to clear violations of the agreement. This, they say, has allowed the situation to fester.

Oxfam and other aid groups are calling for concerted international mediation to help Khartoum and southern Sudan resolve key issues, above all those related to the 2011 referendum and its aftermath. They are urging the government of southern Sudan to move beyond civilian disarmament and strengthen its ability to provide internal security, protect civilians and address community grievances.

There is also a call for the UN security council to make the protection of civilians a priority when renewing the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in April 2010, underscoring the mission's responsibility to meet threats from communal violence and the notorious Lord's Resistance army, a rebel group from northern Uganda.

On the humanitarian situation in southern Sudan, already one of the worst in the world, Oxfam says aid donors should immediately increase emergency funding and make this available through NGOs.

Britain yesterday announced a £54m aid package for humanitarian aid for elections. Most of the money - £36m - will be used by UN agencies and NGOs to provide emergency water and sanitation, healthcare and shelter.

The Sudanese Anglican archbishop, Daniel Deng, is scheduled to see Gordon Brown in London on Saturday and Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, on Monday as part of an international campaign to lobby world leaders for concerted international action.



FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.