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Sudan Wars Seem Far From Over

Posted: 08/09/11 11:21

After a murderous almost-six decade forced-marriage with what is now the rump state of 'northern' Sudan, the Republic of South Sudan (RoSS) was founded on July 9 2011, six months after the Texas-sized region voted overwhelmingly to secede from what was Africa's largest state.

The death-toll (over 2 million) and destruction (total) wrought on what is now RoSS during the fighting has been well-documented - if obscured somewhat in the years since 2003 when the Darfur war began. With RoSS taking 3/4's of what was the old Sudan's oil with it, independence and its aftermath was always likely to be a fraught affair, even if secession was mandated by a 2005 peace agreement.

There was fighting along the border in January - in the still-disputed Abyei region - as the referendum took place. Both the Khartoum Government and the Juba (then-regional) administration distanced themselves from those skirmishes, putting them down to long-standing local disputes between farmers and herders over grazing and passage rights.

Either side of the RoSS formal secession, there has been heavy fighting in the Nuba region of South Kordafan state, an area north of the (still-to-be-finalised) border, and more recently, in Blue Nile, east along the same undecided frontier and bordering Ethiopia.

Both states were on the brutal frontline during Sudan's long north-south wars, with war-induced famine and displacement too extensive to catalogue here. Culturally and politically many of the people living in the states see themselves as closer to the south, but Khartoum remains determined to hold on to these frontier regions, and recently sent a letter to the UN Security Council accusing the RoSS of backing local southern-aligned militias and of supporting rebels in Darfur.

Both states were promised 'Popular Consultations' as an alternative to being allowed a say on whether they stay in Sudan or join the RoSS, but these have been postponed. It is hard to gauge whether the postponements have been a spark for the recent fighting (comments appreciated from people closer to the ground) - but, back in January, after I was in Juba for the start of the RoSS secession vote I then moved on Blue Nile, where the southern secession was seen - by some of those I spoke with - as bittersweet, with southern-leaning Blue Nile residents feeling left out - or left behind - by their soon-to-be de jure RoSS neighbours. Here is one story, with photos, I filed from Blue Nile last January

I interviewed people there who suffered greatly during the 1983-2005 war - with stories of family killed, homes destroyed, spending years as refugees in Ethiopia. 2005 was supposed to mean peace, and a chance to start again. However, a recent UN reporthttp://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/fullreport_161.pdf says that over 1500 people have been killed and 73000 driven from their homes in the recent fighting, though the report does not cover Blue Nile, where an additional 50000 people could be displaced in fighting that started last Friday Sept 2. Sadly, odds are that some of those I met in Blue Nile last January are among the thousands affected by the latest fighting.

 

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