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Friday, February 18, 2011

Sudan- 200 Killed in SPLA - George Athor Battles

February 16, 2011 (KHATOUM - JUBA) – North Sudan's army has denied accusations of supporting insurgents in South Sudan with the intent of destabilizing the region ahead of its formal independence in July this year.

Clashes erupted last week between South Sudan's army, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), and militiamen loyal to its renegade general George Athor around the towns of Fangak and Bor in Jonglei state. Southern officials said more than 200 people, including civilians, had died as a result.

The attacks raised concerns about the future of South Sudan which is being groomed to become formally independent in July this year after it massively voted for secession from the north in a referendum last month.

In a press conference on Wednesday, the minister of peace and implementation of the 2005 peace deal that granted the South the right to secede, Pagan Amum, said the Government of Southern Sudan was not overwhelmed by insecurity in South Sudan.

Amum, who also serves as the SPLM's secretary general, said that the situation was being managed and accused Sudan's ruling the National Congress party (NCP) of arming the militia groups such as the forces of George Athor in Jonglei state and Gabriel Tanginya (AKA Tang) in Upper Nile.

  • Amum said Athor's militias were also supplied with arms by the National Congress Party in Khartoum to destabilize South Sudan.
  • He warned the NCP against the strategy of destabilization of the two soon-to-be independent states of North and South Sudan.
  • Amum said the Government of Southern Sudan was ready to receive and integrate into its organized forces all the rebelled forces and militias, in the region in order to achieve security and stability.
  • North Sudan's army has denied the south's accusations, claiming it was a cover-up of the South's support of Darfur rebels.

In a statement released to the press on Wednesday, the official spokesman of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF), Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa'ad, said that the SPLA's accusation come as a “justification” of the South's unlimited support to Darfur rebels who continue “up to this moment” their rebellions from bases they setup southward of 1956 border.

The 1956 border strip marks the North-South borders as they stood when Sudan declared independence from British-Egyptian condominium rule in that year.

North Sudan has consistently accused the south of supporting rebels in its western region of Darfur, where an eight-year conflict between government and ethnic rebels killed more than 300,000 people and displace 2.7 million since it erupted in 2003.

Minni Arkoi Minawi, who is the only Darfur rebel leader to have signed a peace accord with Khartoum in Abuja in 2006, is currently based in the South.

The SAF's statement asserted that it was committed to refrain from supporting any insurgency in neighboring countries, whether in the south or elsewhere, saying that the area from which Athor launches his operations was geographically remote from the North-South border.

Athor broke ranks with the SPLA and led a rebellion in the south since he lost gubernatorial elections in the Unity state to the SPLM's candidate in April last year.

In the same vein, Pagan Amum claimed that Tanginya and his forces came from Khartoum in January with trucks full of weapons and ammunition. He said according to NCP, Tanginya defected from them with the vehicles and weapons, but added that the trucks had traveled from Khartoum to South Sudan's Upper Nile state without being stopped on the way.

In Upper Nile Tanginya's forces form part of the Joint Integrated Units (JIUs) created after the 2005 peace deal. JIUs consist of elements from the Khartoum-controlled Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Southern army (SPLA).

However, instead of using regular forces for the SAF contingent of the JIUs in Upper Nile many of the soldiers were taken from Tanginya's militia, which sided with Khartoum during the North-South civil war.

As the South approaches independence JIU's are due to be disbanded and the SAF components moved North.

Late last year Tanginya signed a peace deal with the Southern government, agreeing to integrate his forces into the SPLA. However, many of Tanginya's units remained as the SAF contigent of JIU's in Upper Nile and in early February in fighting between his men in Malakal and others areas caused tens of deaths.

The fighting is believed to have broken out between rival groups within the Tanginya's forces, with some wanting to remain in the South, while others wanted to follow the order they had received to move North.

The clashes, reportedly left his forces in control of many bases of the Northern SAF's JIUs.

The Rest @ Sudan Tribune

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