Armed Sudanese nomads block key north-south route

By Skye Wheeler

JUBA, Sudan,
February 12, 2008 (Reuters)

Armed nomads have blocked a road linking north and south Sudan and ambushed vehicles passing through the country's oil-rich Abyei region, south Sudanese officials said on Tuesday.

"The north-east part of Abyei is very sensitive now," said Edward Lino, Abyei representative for the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) party that now leads the south.

"The Misseriya (nomads) have blocked the road. It is the main road to Abyei and the major route into the south." The senior SPLM official said the nomads had attacked at least two buses, shooting at one and looting the other.

The action follows a string of clashes in December and January between southern troops and Misseriya tribesman. South Sudan's president Salva Kiir said the Misseriya were being supported by elements from the northern Sudanese army.

Tensions have worsened in the border region over the continued failure of Khartoum and the SPLM to reach an agreement on the demarcation of the borders of Abyei, the source of much of Sudan's energy reserves.

Abyei's status was left unresolved in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended two decades of civil war between the north and the south in 2005.

A report by US campaign group Enough in January described Abyei as "Sudan's Kashmir" that could spark another civil war if left unresolved.

Analysts say the northern Misseriya were feeling increasingly unsettled over border dispute.

Ahmed Saeed, an expert on the Abyei area, said some Misseriya leaders have recently made statements saying they were ready to resort to violence if the Abyei issue was not settled to their satisfaction.

Southeners have continued to push for the area as demarcated by an independent commission that was rejected by Khartoum.

Misseriya leaders say the commission's demarcation encroaches on their grazing land, added Saeed who is also finance minister for the northern Sudanese region of South Kordofan. (Editing by Andrew Heavens and Keith Weir)


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