Sudan SPLM official says the country inches closer to civil war

May 26, 2008 (AFP)

Sudan is on the brink of civil war, a leader of the main southern political party warned yesterday, likening his northern coalition partners to Nazis and demanding an expanded UN peacekeeping role. The number two in the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, chaired by First Vice President Salva Kiir, launched a blistering attack on the army and ruling National Congress Party over deadly fighting in the flashpoint area of Abyei. "They have committed serious ethnic cleansing. They have displaced more
than 100,000 people, burning down their villages, looting all their property. Not because of anything but because they were Dinka Ngok," Pagan Amum told AFP.

He accused the NCP leadership of trying to uproot Dinka tribesmen from the contested district on the border between north and south-whose estimated half-a-billion dollar oil wealth lies at the core of the bitter dispute. "This is a clear indication that they may be thinking of a final solution to the Abyei problem by killing the people and displacing them," Amum said. "The final solution is like what the Nazis did to the Jewish (people) by finding a solution of eliminating them, by sending them to concentr
ation camps and killing them," he told AFP.

Six million Jews were killed in the genocide. UN officials warn that up to 90,000 people could be displaced by two rounds of fighting this month between government soldiers and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Army that flattened Abyei's once bustling main town. "As the situation is now, the two parties are on the verge of a civil war. The only way to avoid a civil war is to demilitarize the area and implementation of the Abyei protocol," Amum said.

He described the fighting as the worst crisis endangering the entire three-year peace process that ended Africa's longest-running civil war between north and south Sudan in which more than 1.5 million people were killed. Under a 2005 deal, the border area of Abyei was accorded a special status while the south was given a six-year transition period of power-sharing in Khartoum and regional autonomy until a 2011 referendum on independence.

But half-way through the transition period, Abyei has never been governed by a joint administration. Both sides and the United Nations say the dispute cannot be solved until a proper, joint administration is up and running. The ethnic clash in Abyei is between the Ngok Dinka generally affiliated to the south who dominated the town and outlying villages, and nomadic Arab tribesmen who migrate seasonally to graze their animals.

In 2011, Abyei will also vote on whether to retain its special status in the Arab north or join the Christian and animist south. "To have peace in the area the best thing is to take the military forces out of the area and to deploy UN forces in the area," said Amum. Sudan's military has controlled Abyei since the latest fighting saw the SPLA redeploy south. UN peacekeepers, largely from Zambia, are patrolling the town.

The Sudanese army said 22 soldiers were killed, and medics said that they treated around 135 casualties, almost entirely from the SPLA in fighting last Tuesday. Amum said the gravity of the situation meant that joint Sudanese patrols-as stipulated in the peace arrangements-and international monitors were no longer adequate to shore up peace. "If the international community cannot intervene now to protect the civilian population, what is the use of the international community?" he said.

But the government blamed the south for allegedly unilaterally appointing its own Abyei governor, Edward Lino, in the weeks leading up to the fighting. "The government adheres to and is fully committed to the CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement)," government spokesman Rabbie Abdul Atti told AFP, denying the country was on the brink of civil war. Ashraf Qazi, special representative of the UN secretary general, said that a ceasefire committee would meet on Tuesday in a bid to resolve the crisis. Speaking in t
he south, where he met Kiir to press efforts to avert what he fears could escalate into a bigger conflict, Qazi called for a senior-level meeting between Sudanese leaders. "So that there can be an interim administration for Abyei, there can be a joint integrated unit, the UN can have full access, and the people can begin to gradually move back," he told reporters.

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