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Fresh fighting breaks out in Sudan North-South border region

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March 21, 2008 (KHARTOUM) — There has been new reports of fighting between former southern Sudanese rebels and armed tribesman in the oil rich border region.

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Residents at the market in the town of Abyei, central Sudan, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2007. (AP)

The Al-Sahafa daily said that the deadly clashes broke out between the Sudan people Liberation Army (SPLA) and the cattle-herding Misseriya tribes around 20 kilometers east of the Heglig oil field.

The newspaper said that the fighting claimed 3 members of the Misseriya tribe but said that there were no reports of casualties from the SPLA.

Tensions have worsened in the border region over the failure of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) in the north and the SPLM to reach a deal on the demarcation of the borders of Abyei, the source of much of Sudan’s energy reserves.

A leadership figure in the Misseriya tribe Sabir Ahmed Mohamed said that the SPLA sent reinforcements to the Heglig oil field area. He also said that the recent clashes claimed dozens on both sides.

The SPLM signed a peace deal in January 2005 with the government of the National Congress Party in January 2005 ending two decades of civil war in Southern Sudan. The peace deal made the SPLM, the ruling party in the south and the NCP the ruling party in the north.

Both sides also signed the Abyei protocol to allow for the resolution of the dispute over the area at a later date.

Under the protocol a commission known as the Abyei Boundaries Commission (ABC) was to “define and demarcate the area of the nine Ngok Dinka Chiefdoms transferred to Kordofan in 1905, referred to herein as Abyei Area”.

However the president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir said that the NCP is committed to the Abyei Protocol only with the border of 1905. He further said the government is not concerned with the ABC report and that the latter is of no value to them.

Al-Sahafa also reported that the transitional council of the SPLM meeting in Juba affirmed it will not accept any alternative to the Abyei protocol and refused any compromises.

The Abyei region has been described as Sudan’s Kashmir by the ENOUGH project saying that it may develop into a “national war with regional implications and historically devastating repercussions”.

Last month Sudan’s First Vice President and president of South Sudan Salva Kiir told the semi-governmental Al-Ahram daily in Egypt that “the ABC report should be binding to all parties but the NCP rejected it and is looking for an alternative. This is not acceptable to us and we will stick the report”.

(ST)

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