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Terrorism & Security

Renewed Sudan violence raises fears of return to civil war

Fighting flared this week in an oil-rich flashpoint in central Sudan.

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In 2003, a separate conflict intensified in the western Darfur region, where government-backed Arab Janjaweed militias have attacked ethnic African civilians. That conflict has left some 300,000 dead, according to the United Nations. It's also turned into what many now see as a proxy war between Sudan and neighboring Chad to its west.

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In the wake of last Saturday's attack on Omdurman, Sudan immediately cut ties with neighboring Chad, which it believes backs the Darfur rebels, reported The Christian Science Monitor.

The head of the African Union, Jean Ping, on Thursday urged the leaders of Sudan and Chad to calm tensions, Agence France-Presse reported. More than 200 people were killed in last week's attack and related clashes.

In Sudan, the 2005 peace accord gave the south semiautonomous status. But tension has never fully subsided, particularly in disputed, oil-rich areas along the unofficial north-south border line.

The BBC notes that the disputed status of Abyei was not resolvedin the accord.

Three years after the signing of a peace deal, an administration is yet to be set up in Abyei, which is claimed by both north and south.
"This is indeed one of the most serious issues facing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between south and north," [UN spokesman Khaled] Mansour told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
He said because of the dispute the town lacked even the most basic services which made the area a "tinderbox".

The agreement stipulates that Abyei is to be guarded by joint units of soldiers from the north and south, according to Reuters.

In mid-March,the International Crisis Group said tensions had subsided when a December agreement saw southern leaders rejoining the unity government after a 2-1/2-month boycott.

But the group warned that "the risk of significant new fighting is growing in the Abyei area."

The group said that the international community was "dangerously disengaged" from the peace agreement, in part because of preoccupation with the ongoing Darfur conflict in the West. It urged the UN and other international players to form a comprehensive policy covering both Darfur and the implementation of the 2005 accord. It specifically recommended:

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) should increase monitoring of flashpoint areas in Abyei and along the North-South border and negotiate with the parties to create demilitarised zones into which UNMIS forces could deploy and monitor movements of troops to help prevent local flare-ups from escalating.

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