KHARTOUM (Reuters) - South Sudan’s president has blamed the military in the north for a major escalation in violence in his semi-autonomous region emerging from decades of civil war, a southern official said on Monday.
Long-standing tribal tensions in the south over cattle raids have escalated into more organised attacks on villages which the United Nations estimates have killed 1,200 people this year.
The latest violence in the marshy Jonglei state has killed at least 23 more in the past three days.
“President Salva Kiir held a press conference and blamed the Sudanese army for that action in Jonglei by forming militia groups and giving them orders to attack citizens,” said Atem Simon, a communications officer for Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) party.
“He said ... there is no doubt that these arms are coming from the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF),” Simon told Reuters. SAF is the northern army.
Simon said the southern army, known as the SPLA, had captured weapons and had evidence they had come from the north.
A 2005 peace deal ended the bitter north-south civil war which claimed 2 million lives and was fought over oil, ethnicity, ideology and religion. The war destabilised much of east Africa and any return to conflict could affect neighbouring nations.
The agreement devolved many powers to the newly created southern government, allowed for democratic elections and a southern vote on secession in 2011. But delays in implementation have created distrust between the former foes.
In the latest violence, at least 23 people were killed and 21 injured in tit-for-tat cattle raids between the Mundari and Dinka Bor tribes, the deputy governor of Jonglei state said on Monday.
“We are urging the government of southern Sudan to send more SPLA troops to calm the situation,” Hussein Mar Nyuot told Reuters by telephone.
He said the situation was tense and the road between the southern capital Juba and Bor was now closed because of multiple deadly ambushes.
“These communities ... can overpower the police and small numbers of troops there so we need more SPLA along the road at least to help us create a buffer zone between the two communities,” he said.
He asked for aid for 1,700 displaced from seven burned villages.