Thousands Displaced in Sudan War Zone

Monday, 27 August 2012 06:21 AM

KHARTOUM, Sudan — Thousands of people have been newly displaced by fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan, officials said on Monday, as an international aid plan falls behind schedule despite warnings about the humanitarian situation.

More than 8,700 people have fled the fighting in Rashad district of northeastern South Kordofan state, government figures showed.

"We've heard that entire villages may have been displaced," a United Nations source said. "There may be up to four villages," including Al Moreib which has been the focus of recent fighting, said the source who requested anonymity.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which says more than 5,000 people have fled the area, reported that combat with government forces continued around Al Moreib on Monday following aerial bombardment in the region on Sunday.

Rebels first reported a battle in Al Moreib on Friday.

Late Saturday the army said it had "clashed with the rebels and drove them outside the area" where they had been "terrorising and intimidating" residents.

Some rebels then took to nearby hills, where troops are moving against them "and fighting is going on," army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad told AFP on Monday.

Both sides claimed to have killed dozens of their opponents but access to the region is restricted, making verification of casualty claims difficult.

The recent uprooting of thousands of villagers adds to more than 650,000 which the United Nations says were already displaced or severely affected by the fighting in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where related conflicts began in June and September last year.

The United Nations has expressed concern for months about a worsening humanitarian situation in the war zone, where Khartoum cited security concerns in tightly restricting the operations of foreign aid agencies.

On August 5 Khartoum signed a memorandum of understanding with the African Union, Arab League, and United Nations to allow for humanitarian access throughout South Kordofan and Blue Nile — including in rebel-held areas.

The signing came six months after the three organizations submitted their proposal to Khartoum.

In early August the rebels signed a similar memorandum.

Under the deals, an "operational plan" was to be agreed upon within one week. Within two weeks, the three international organizations were to make a field assessment of the aid needs.

None of that has been done, confirmed Ali Adam, a director general of Sudan's Humanitarian Aid Commission.

"We were supposed to have a meeting before Eid," he told AFP, referring to the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of Ramadan on August 18.

But participants were "not available," he said, unable to give a date when discussions will resume.

The rebels said on Friday that the attacks around Al Moreib aimed to stymie the international aid plan but a senior ruling party official called the accusation false, saying the government is committed to allowing relief into the war zone.

Ethnic minority insurgents of the SPLM-N were allies of southern rebels during Sudan's 22-year civil war, which ended in a 2005 peace deal and South Sudan's independence in July last year.

Sudan accuses South Sudan of supporting the SPLM-N, a charge which analysts believe despite denials by the government in Juba.

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Monday, 27 August 2012 06:21 AM
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