Khartoum warns of new Abyei flare-up

The government of Sudan`s south has accused Khartoum of plotting its ouster.

Last Updated: Mar 14, 2011, 09:42 AM IST

Khartoum: Sudan`s ruling party warned on Sunday of serious violence in the flashpoint Abyei region, a day after the government of the country`s breakaway south accused Khartoum of plotting its ouster.

Al-Dirdiri Mohammed Ahmed, the National Congress Party`s chief negotiator on Abyei, warned of "a lot of skirmishes" unless the southern army withdraws thousands of "irregular" troops from the volatile district by Monday.

But the prospects of the southern Sudan People`s Liberation Army (SPLA) bowing to the NCP`s demands have dimmed.

On Saturday, the southern government walked out of pre-independence negotiations, accusing Khartoum of arming southern militia groups and planning its ouster ahead of southern Sudan`s planned secession in July.

Dirdiri told journalists in Khartoum that a deadline for the withdrawal of around 2,500 SPLA troops in police fatigues, agreed to by both sides under an accord reached in January, expired on Monday.

"If the SPLA is not going to withdraw the police ... the situation in Abyei might deteriorate, and could prove to be very serious within the coming few days," he said.

A peace accord reached on January 17 called on all forces to withdraw from the disputed border district except for special joint units of northern and southern troops alongside UN peacekeepers.

Tensions there have been high since the January referendum on independence for the south, in which southerners voted almost unanimously to secede from the north.

A simultaneous plebiscite on Abyei`s own future, as to whether it joins the north or south, was postponed indefinitely, with the NCP and south`s ruling Sudan People`s Liberation Movement (SPLM) at loggerheads over who should be eligible to vote.

At least 70 people were killed and three villages razed in clashes earlier this month between fighters from the Arab Misseriya tribe, which supports the Khartoum government, and the Ngok Dinka people, who back the south.

On Friday, a US monitoring group said it had satellite images that showed armed groups backed by the armies of both north and south Sudan reinforcing their positions in the area.

Dirdiri blamed the latest in Abyei on the SPLA-backed forces, whom he accused of killing indiscriminately and slaughtering Misseriya cows for food.

In turn the south has repeatedly accused the Misseriya nomads, who herd their cattle south in the dry season in search of water and grazing pastures, of fomenting the violence with Khartoum`s support.

Pagan Amum, the southern official who announced the decision to abandon talks with the north, said on Sunday that the NCP was arming Arab tribes all along the border in a policy of attempted genocide.

"They want to carry out genocide like they have done to the African tribes in Darfur," he told a news conference in Juba.

Heavy clashes on Saturday between south Sudanese troops and a rebel militia accused of links to Khartoum in the southern border town of Malakal, in oil-rich Upper Nile state, left 42 people dead, SPLA spokesman Philip Aguer said Sunday, updating an earlier death toll of 30.

Aguer said two of the dead were SPLA soldiers and the rest rebels.

South Sudan has witnessed a wave of deadly clashes with militia groups in Jonglei and Upper Nile state in recent weeks that have left hundreds dead and revived the war of words with Khartoum.

Ties between the two sides had appeared to have improved during January`s largely peaceful referendum.

The future of Abyei is the most sensitive of a raft of issues that the NCP and the SPLM have been trying to resolve ahead of southern independence in July, which include borders, citizenship, security and debt.

Bureau Report