South Sudan threatens to retaliate against North in border dispute
South Sudan says the North is at risk of breaking a fragile 2005 peace deal that ended two decades of civil war.
Juba, South Sudan
The growing possibility of civil war over Sudan's most disputed border zone was confirmed Monday when the South Sudanese army said it would retaliate if the North's army continued to move south.Skip to next paragraph
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"Our mission is to protect the borders … any step south of this [North-South] border will not be tolerated," says South Sudan's military spokesman Philip Aguer.
On Saturday, northern forces seized the strategic, contested border town of Abyei and Mr. Aguer is warning the North that it is at risk of shattering the fragile 2005 peace deal that ended two decades of war.
With a UN Security Council delegation currently in the country, South Sudanese officials have appealed to the international community to force the withdrawal of the North's army from Abyei.
The Security Council called for the North's withdrawal at a press conference in Khartoum yesterday, but the North has struck a defensive tone and top officials refused to meet with the delegation. Mr. Bashir, who is wanted for war crimes for his role in the unresolved Darfur conflict, was not invited to meet with the delegation.
Roots of the dispute over Abyei
A series of internationally-brokered agreements since 2005 have failed to contain the continually volatile situation in Abyei, which first exploded in 2008 when the North's army razed the town. The referendum the people of Abyei were promised in the 2005 peace deal was not held as scheduled in January due to a dispute between the North and South regarding who could vote.
The North's government said that the semi-nomadic, Arab Misseriya people must be allowed to vote, while the soon-to-be independent South Sudanese government rejected that the Misseriya counted as residents.
Abyei is a fertile patch of borderland shared by two populations with different loyalties. The Ngok Dinka people claim the land as their historical homeland, support the South’s government, and hope that Abyei will join the South when the new nation – the Republic of South Sudan – is officially formed on July 9.