Friday, 2 September 2011

Sudan refers Kordofan border clashes to UN

Following intensive clashes in the border region between Sudan and newly-independent South Sudan, the Khartoum government has filed a complaint with the UN Security Council accusing its neighbour of fomenting instability.

The clashes in South Kordofan began in June, a month before the formal declaration of South Sudanese independence, but have flared up recently, with the Sudanese government accused of indiscriminate aerial bombing of civilian areas. Around 200,000 are believed to have fled their homes. An unexpected government ceasefire announced on 23rd August does not appear to have ended the fighting.

Sudanese government forces are seeking to neutralise armed rebels from the Nuba ethnic group. Although now located north of the border, many of the Nuba sided with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army during the southern group's 20 year war against Khartoum. Non-Arab like most of South Sudan's population, the Nuba community also complained of discrimination and oppression by the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.

Sudan now views the pro-southerners which are left within its territory as a potential fifth column for the new government in Juba. In its complaint to the UN, the Sudanese government has accused South Sudan of arming and instructing the rebels in the Nuba Mountains. A Sudanese government spokesman said on 30th August that Khartoum has “documented proof” that the insurrection is being orchestrated by Juba.

The complaint also cited numerous alleged border violations by South Sudan, including the deployment of military forces in the disputed, oil-rich area of Abyei (which borders South Kordofan) in violation of the 2005 peace deal, and failing to withdraw forces from a disputed border strip. Juba has denied all the accusations.

This new international element to the long-simmering rebellion increases risks for the wider border situation between Sudan and South Sudan. South Kordofan is adjacent to Abyei, a focal point of north-south tensions because of its oil wealth.

An uptick in fighting between the Sudanese army and the rebels, or cross-border raids, could raise the prospect of the southern Sudanese military – at this point still a cobbled-together force of former rebels – becoming involved.

Sources: BBC, Reuters, Sudan Tribune

For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.

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