August 22, 2009 / 2:10 PM / 10 years ago

S.Sudan accuses north of arming southern civilians, militias

JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - The Khartoum government is arming militias and civilians in southern Sudan to destabilise the semi-autonomous region, officials from the south’s main party say.

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (R) salutes a military parade next to First Vice President Salva Kiir during the 4th anniversary celebration of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, ending more than two decades of civil war in the southern town of Malakal January 9, 2009. REUTERS/Tim McKulka/UNMIS/Handout

Khartoum’s National Congress Party (NCP) and the former southern rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), signed a peace agreement in 2005 that ended more than 20 years of war between north and south.

The south was given a share in national oil revenues as well as its own government, headed by the former rebels that also took seats in the national parliament.

But fighting between southern tribes has claimed at least 950 lives this year, mostly women and children, in attacks on villages.

“The National Congress (Party) has been arming militia groups to cause instability in south Sudan and has also been arming civilians,” Pagan Amum, Secretary General of the SPLM told reporters on Thursday in the southern capital Juba.

Senior NCP officials in Khartoum were not available to comment on the accusation. But an NCP member of the southern parliament dismissed it.

“I think they’re just crying wolf,” parliamentarian Caesar Bayo said on Saturday. “People have to bring hard proof, it’s not just a matter of saying.

Amum said his party had laid out a plan to stop the movement of guns into the south that included monitoring the border and continuing civilian disarmament.

Tribal fighting, often over cattle, takes place annually but the south’s President Salva Kiir has blamed the recent intensification on unnamed agitators that he said were trying to show the south is unable to govern itself before a 2011 referendum.

SPLM spokesman Yien Matthew said on Saturday that guns bearing the logo of a Khartoum manufacturer had been found in the south.

“Yes they are arming, even as the Government of Southern Sudan has disarmed civilians,” he said.

Amum said the NCP was also arming civilians all over northern Sudan, including in the western Darfur region where a six-year-old war continues.

“This is very dangerous plan to cause the collapse and instability all over the country and we call on the National Congress to review this policy, to stop it,” Amum said.

The civil war was fought mainly over differing political ideologies and religious and ethnic identities, and claimed more than 2 million lives. It is separate from the conflict in Darfur.

Relations between the NCP and the SPLM have been rough since the 2005 accord, which is looking fragile in the face of elections planned for April and a southern referendum on secession from the north set for 2011.

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