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North, South Sudan in War of Words over Tribal Attacks


North Sudan is denying accusations from the South that it is arming tribal militias in southern territory, claiming the clashes are the result of poor governance on the part of the South's ruling party. A brutal militia attack on Sunday in the South left over 100 dead.

The clash in southern Sudan's Jonglei state is the latest and most fatal of a steady string of attacks in the region that the United Nations estimates has left more than 1,200 dead since the beginning of the year.

The South's army has accused Khartoum of arming rival militias in the South in an effort to undermine the 2005 peace agreement, which is supposed to culminate in a 2011 referendum on independence in South Sudan.

Cattle raids are traditionally common in the pastoralist areas of the south, but eyewitnesses say that many of these attacks take a much different form. They say that often these militiamen target the towns, leaving cattle untouched.

These reports have driven suspicions that Khartoum has resurrected its tactic of arming proxy southern militias. During the long civil war between the two sides, the North strategically exploited tribal tensions in the south in an attempt to paralyze the South's main army.

A senior communication official of the North's ruling National Congress Party, Rabie Abdulaati, denied the accusations, telling VOA that the comments from the southern officials are just an attempt to deflect blame.

"They have not any evidence that the National Congress Party has any role played in this conflict, and the accusations of SPLM towards the National Congress Party is due to their failure to rule the south," said Abdulaati.

The NCP official blames the south's ruling party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, of incompetence as a governing party.

"SPLM did not rule the south properly," added Abdulaati. "Also they have failed to distribute wealth and power to different southern tribes. This is the cause of the conflict."

The SPLM is often accused by its southern critics of favoring the Dinka people group of southern Sudan, a perception that analysts say could hurt the party's efforts at maintaining a united southern Sudan during the most crucial components of the peace process.

The armed attackers on Sunday were from the Luo Nuer tribe.

The United Nations has also expressed deep concern over the violence, saying the instability threatens derailing the peace plan, including the ability to conduct proper national elections scheduled for April 2010.

The SPLM and NCP are currently co-partners in a government of national unity agreed to in the 2005 peace agreement. The SPLM is also the ruling party in the semi-autonomous government of south Sudan.


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