Six people died in clashes between the Sudanese government army and Southern Sudanese forces in the north’s only oil-producing state, the United Nations said.
Fighting continued today for a second day, UN spokesman Kouider Zerrouk said by phone from Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. The bodies of four policemen and two civilians were brought to the police hospital in Kadugli, the capital of the border state of Southern Kordofan, he said.
The UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan is concerned about the fighting and “the deterioration of the security situation in Kadugli,” he said. The UN has moved its international staff and employees of non-governmental organizations to the UN compound in the city, Zerrouk said. Sudanese army spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khaled did not answer calls seeking comment. Earlier today, he said there was no fighting in the state.
Fighting on the border between northern Sudan and oil-rich Southern Sudan, which is due to become independent on July 9, has raised concern about a resumption of the two-decade civil war that ended in 2005.
The U.S. today called on both sides to adhere to their peace agreement, in a statement from the State Department.
“We call for an immediate halt to all military actions that prejudice the outcome of negotiations on future political and security arrangements for Southern Kordofan and neighboring Blue Nile state,” the statement said.
Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir’s army said last week that southern troops in Southern Kordofan would be “legitimate targets” if they didn’t leave the area by June 1.
As many as 60,000 fighters from the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states fought for the south in the civil war, according to Fouad Hikmat, the special adviser on Sudan for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
“We don’t have Southern Sudanese in that area,” Aguer said earlier today by phone from Juba, the regional capital. The fighters in Southern Kordofan are members of the Nuba ethnic group from that state, he said. “If Khartoum wants to disarm them by force, this is the result.”
Southern Kordofan borders the oil-rich states of Unity and Upper Nile in Southern Sudan, which will assume control of about 75 percent of Sudan’s daily oil production of 490,000 barrels of oil at independence. The state currently pumps about 115,000 barrels of oil per day, according to Sudan’s minister of state for oil, Ali Ahmed Osman.
Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Co. and Petro Energy E&P Co. operate blocks in Southern Kordofan. The concessions are mostly owned by China National Petroleum Corp. Other stakes are held by Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd, or Petronas, and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Corp.
The fighting may have broken out when northern forces tried to disarm members of the Nuba ethnic group in Southern Kordofan state, who fought on the side of Southern Sudan in the civil war against the government in Khartoum, Aguer said.
Under a 2005 peace accord, the northern and southern armies were due to jointly patrol Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states on the northern side of the border and the disputed region of Abyei. The two states and Abyei were key battlegrounds during the war between the north and the south.
Sudan’s army occupied Abyei on May 21, accusing Southern Sudanese forces of attacking its soldiers two days earlier, and rejected calls by the UN Security Council to withdraw from the disputed region. The seizure sparked an exodus of about 96,000 people, according to UN estimates.
Looting in Abyei
Looting continued in Abyei even after the Sudanese Armed Forces pledged to stop it, the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “We urge the SAF to uphold its commitment and intervene to stop these criminal acts,” it said.
The UN mission is also asking the armed forces to “release all civilians who are still in their custody,” grant peacekeepers access to the entire Abyei region and “immediately stop its artillery fire” from the vicinity of the UN compound in Abyei town, according to the statement.
“This artillery fire is a security threat for the UN presence, patrols and flights in Abyei and creates high risks for civilians who may be willing to return to their villages,” the mission said.