06 January 2010

Violence in Southern Sudan

Reuters reports that 17 people were killed, including 13 soldiers, in an attempt to disarm armed civilian groups in Southern Sudan.

Seventeen people were killed on Thursday when armed civilians ambushed south Sudanese soldiers trying to disarm tribes following heavy fighting in the semi-autonomous region last year, an official said on Tuesday.

A 2005 peace deal ended more than two decades of north-south civil war, but the south Sudan army has found it difficult to disarm civilians in the lawless south and tribal violence claimed an estimated 2,500 lives in the south last year.

"The soldiers clashed with armed civilians, 13 were killed from the soldiers' side and four from the civilians," Lakes State Deputy Governor David Noc Marial told Reuters. The civilians' refusal to disarm was behind the ambush, he said.

It is important to note that these soldiers were from the the South Sudanese military, not the Sudanese military proper. South Sudan is experiencing a number of concurrent crises, including raids from the batshit crazy Lord's Resistance Army. These attempted disarmaments were likely an attempt to halt intertribal violence that rocked the area last year, stemming from disputes over pasture land and cattle raids.

The big unspoken here, not mentioned in the Reuters article, is that the government in Khartoum is probably arming many of these groups itself in order to destabilize the South in the run-up to the 2010 elections and 2011 secession referendum. Expect to see a whole lot of news out of Sudan in the months to come.

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