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Monday, January 10, 2011

36 Killed by Gatluak Gai's Forces in South Sudan

Even after casting his vote at the grounds where his father's remains lie, Mabior de Garang, son of former Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) leader, John Garang de Mabior, was not an entirely happy man.

Mr Mabior, who went with his mother and two siblings to symbolically pay their respects to their father's grave that was only metres away from the polling centre where he voted from, said his thoughts on what was a historic day for Sudan were with parts of his father still unfulfilled vision. He said the dream of his father and other SPLA founding fathers had been for a day when the entire Southern Sudan would have a chance to choose whether to stay united with the north or secede.

Disputed areas...

However, he added, the three areas of Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Southern Blue Nile - all found at the disputed border points between the south and the north - would not vote as expected on whether they would want to belong to the north or the south of Sudan.

"I have mixed feelings; what the white people call a bitter-sweet moment," he told Daily Monitor shortly after voting. "On one level, I am happy because we are getting our freedom and on another level I am not happy because the marginalised areas are not voting in this referendum.

It was part of the CPA. Our New Sudan that we envisioned was Southern Sudan of the 1956 border and the three marginalised areas of

  • Abyei
  • Nuba Mountains
  • Southern Blue Nile.

So because it is not being done in Abyei and the Nuba Mountains, it gives me a bitter-sweet feeling."

Administrative status

The three areas are largely inhabited by the Ngok Dinka, who are related to the inhabitants of the rest of Southern Sudan.

However, Misseriya nomads migrate seasonally through the territory, which often results in conflict between the two groups over land.

When Sudan's north and south signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), a protocol in the deal granted the disputed territory special administrative status under the presidency and its own January 2011 referendum to decide whether to continue that status within the North or become part of the South.

Locals in the three 'marginalised' areas were therefore expected to vote in their own separate referendum on the same day as the south, but the plans have been shelved indefinitely. Instead, developments in the controversial areas during the run up to the referendum in the south provided a glimpse into the potential conflicts that could erupt in an area with the potential of dragging the north and south back to war.

On Friday, three days before the referendum in the south, militias loyal to renegade Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) renegade officer, Gatluak Gai, engaged the Southern Sudan military based in Unity State in a gun battle in which two militiamen were killed.

  • Southern Sudan Minister of Internal Affairs, Lt. Gen. Gier Chuang Aluong, said during two days of fighting, the SPLA also captured 32 prisoners of war, including two officers from Gatluak's attackers.

About 36 people have been confirmed dead in the four days of fighting. Both Gen. Aluong and the chairperson of the Abyei Referendum Forum, Deng Mading Mijak, said the people in the three areas in the north had fallen victim to joint attacks between the Sudanese armed forces and government sponsored militia.

Mr Mijak said the attacks made an already bad situation worse because besides not getting the opportunity to decide their fate, they were now mourning lives that had been lost. He added that the attacks would only make them more determined to fight for an opportunity to decide where they belong.

According to Gabriel Garang Deng, the Director of Taxation in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the unresolved fate of the marginalised areas is a recipe for trouble in future because no side is likely to cede ground.

"In the long run the issue of Abyei could become like that of Kashmir [a region between Pakistan and India, which has been the source of a protracted conflict between the two countries]," he said, "because if they don't want to surrender it to us, we are not ready to surrender it to them

The Rest @ All Africa

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