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Updated: November 15, 2011 23:05 IST

Conflict still haunts world's newest country

Josh Kron
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DISPLACED: Refugees who fled Maiyas village in Kurmuk region of the Blue Bile State after violence broke out.
AFP DISPLACED: Refugees who fled Maiyas village in Kurmuk region of the Blue Bile State after violence broke out.

Violence between South Sudan and Sudan may escalate humanitarian crisis.

Growing violence along the border between Sudan and South Sudan caused a major humanitarian aid group to withdraw over the weekend.

The group, the British humanitarian agency Oxfam, pulled its staff from South Sudan's border region beginning late Friday. It issued a statement that said, “New bombing raids and a build-up of troops along the border of Sudan and South Sudan over the past few days threaten to escalate what is already a significant humanitarian crisis in the newest country in the world.” The group, which provides clean water, sanitation, public health and resettlement services and assists more than 100,000 people in the area, said it had noticed a distinct build-up of South Sudan troops near the border with Sudan. Other aid groups continue to operate in the area.

South Sudan separated from Sudan six months ago as part of a peace accord ending one of Africa's longest civil wars. Since then violence along the border has escalated amid fears that South Sudan is sliding into a new armed conflict with its northern neighbour. Sudan has accused South Sudan of arming Sudanese rebels in the border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Sudanese rebel leaders could not be reached for comment.

Last week South Sudan, the United States and the United Nations strongly criticised the Sudanese government for bombing locations in South Sudan, including a refugee camp, which has threatened to widen the conflict. A satellite-imaging programme sponsored by the advocacy organisation ‘Enough Project' has said it has evidence of a large build-up of Sudanese troops, as well as of the construction of new air-force bases near the border with South Sudan. A Sudanese government spokesman, Rabie A. Atti, defended the build-up on Sunday, saying, “We are only securing our border.”

Sudanese rebels from the border regions of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan signed an alliance with those from the country's Darfur region on Friday, forming the Sudan Revolutionary Front. It asked women and youth to join “popular resistance and armed struggle” against the Sudanese government. “Impelled by our patriotic duties and answering the call of our people for just peace, democracy, equal citizenship, liberty,” the agreement read, “we in the Sudan Revolutionary Front are committed to the convergence of both civil political action and armed struggle as the means for achieving these aims.”

The Sudanese government said it had been signed in Yei, a South Sudanese city, although news reports said it had been signed in Kauda, a Sudanese city in the rebellious Southern Kordofan region. —New York Times News Service

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