- The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has ordered United Nations officials to extend all possible assistance to the victims of the latest “heinous” surge of violence in southern Sudan, where 161 people, including 100 women and children, were reported to have been killed in the latest fighting.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr Ban voiced his “extreme concern” at the killing in Akobo in Jonglei state, where 50 men and 11 soldiers from the regional Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) were also killed.
Southern Sudan was the scene of one of Africa’s longest and bloodiest civil wars, in which at least 2 million people were killed, 4 million others uprooted and 600,000 more fled across the borders, until a peace agreement in 2005 ended the 20 years of fighting between southern separatists and the national Government in the north. A referendum on the independence for the south is expected to be held in 2011, following national elections next year.
More recently, violence has flared periodically from various quarters, with Mr Ban warning last month that escalating inter-tribal fighting was jeopardising the stability of the entire country and putting at risk key milestones in implementing the 2005 pact, known as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
According to reports, attacks by the notorious Ugandan rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), have also wrought havoc in border regions in the south.
Mr Ban has also recent called on the regional Government of Southern Sudan “to bring to justice those responsible for these events and take the necessary measures to protect civilians across Southern Sudan.”
In his latest report on the work of the UN Mission in Sudan, Mr Ban said the security situation in the south has deteriorated since April, with long-simmering disputes sparking “alarming waves of violence [and] at times triggering vicious cycles of attack.”
At least 200 civilians have been killed in the clashes, as well as dozens of members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the former southern rebel group that signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 to end the civil war.
Mr Ban said the future of the CPA depends largely on the relationship between the SPLA and the National Congress Party (NCP), which signed the agreement and formed a Government of National Unity in Khartoum.
“Their action or inaction in the coming months will determine whether the outstanding benchmarks,” such as elections scheduled for next year and a subsequent referendum that could result in the secession of southern Sudan, can be upheld.
He urged both sides to “take steps to engage in meaningful dialogue and reach agreement on outstanding issues.”
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