Fighting rages in Sudan's Southern Kordofan

Clashes have centered around the state capital, as northern artillery hit the southern army's positions. North and south were to jointly run the state until a vote to determine future leadership.

Paul Banks/UNMIS/Reuters
Residents gather outside UNMIS sector headquarters in the state capital of Kadugli on June 9. As many as 40,000 people may have fled fighting in Sudan's Southern Kordofan state, the United Nations said Friday, after nearly a week of clashes between northern forces and southern-aligned groups.

Intense fighting and violence continue in the volatile border state of Southern Kordofan between the northern army, or SAF, and elements of the southern army, or SPLA. According to the latest account from AFP, UN sources observed Antonov bombers and fighter jets flying around the state capital of Kadugli, following the shelling of SPLA positions by the northern army since Tuesday. Witnesses on the ground described northern-affiliated forces taking aggressive measures against civilians and conducting house-to-house searches for SPLA troops, the article also said.

Few details have emerged of how the eruption of conflict has impacted civilians. The UN has confirmed that 10,000 people have been displaced and sought shelter with the UN -- a number that is likely only a fraction of the total number displaced as many reportedly fled to other locales and remain unaccounted for. No casualty figure, aside from six confirmed deaths, has been publicized thus far.

According to the most recent OCHA report, clashes have centered around the capital of Kadugli and surrounding towns and villages. “Most civilians” have fled the towns of Talodi, Um Durein, and Dilling, the report says.

Fighting first broke out between the SAF and members of the SPLA in Southern Kordofan last Saturday following weeks of heightened political tensions and threats by Sudanese officials that it would seize the two border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile and attack any SPLA elements who do not withdraw south of the North-South border. According to The New York Times, skirmishes first broke out when northern army soldiers attempted to forcibly disarm elements of the SPLA and a group of southern soldiers raided a police station.

Today, President Bashir was quoted as saying that Southern Kordofan was under SAF control, and that soldiers were “clearing the state of the remaining rebels.” Khartoum’s military actions in Southern Kordofan is the regime’s latest abrogation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, or CPA, signed six years prior to end a two decades-long war that left two and a half million people dead. Two weeks ago, the Sudanese army forcibly occupied the disputed area of Abyei.

Many residents of Southern Kordofan and its neighboring state to the east, Blue Nile, fought on the South’s side during the North-South civil war. The conflict in these two areas, recognized as unique, was addressed in the CPA in a protocol separate from those related to the South. Under the protocol, these two areas should have largely been demilitarized (not only of SPLA, but of SAF and its affiliated militias) and undergone consultations to determine whether populations in the two states approve the details of the peace agreement -- neither obligation having been fulfilled thus far.

--- Amanda Hsiao blogs for the Enough Project about Sudanese politics.

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