Radio Dabanga (Hilversum)

27 December 2012

South Sudan: Sudan and South Sudan in Fresh Border Clashes

Photo: Arne Doornebal/ RNW
Sudan armed.

Khartoum — Fresh fighting at the border between Sudanese forces and the South Sudanese army (SPLA) has killed an unconfirmed number of people today, 26 December. Casualty reports vary between 8 and 28 people dead in the area of Warguet, also known to Arab tribes as Samaha. At least 50 people of the Rizeigat tribe originating from East Darfur were wounded.

The area along the river Bahr al Arab, also known as the River Kiir, is currently under control of the South Sudan army (SPLA) claiming the area is part of Northern Bahr al Ghazal of South Sudan, while Sudan claims it belongs to the state of East Darfur in Sudan.

The Rizeigat tribe inhabiting the area is asking the international community to prevent a full-scale war. A leader of the Rizeigat shura council, Mohamed Isa Aleu, confirmed he counted 4 dead and tens of people wounded.

He also confirmed a huge military build-up by the Sudan Armed Forces. 'The SPLA has been shelling us from a distance of around 20 kilometers. We have been asking the government of Khartoum to solve the issue in a political way. For us, the river Bahr al Arab is the only source for drinking water for the cattle. The situation becomes a matter of life and dead for us in the coming months".

Sources among the villagers in the area of Samaha said the ground attacks were severe. An eyewitness told Radio Dabanga: "At least 25 people are confirmed dead. Ten people have been injured, additionally eight people sustained severe injuries. We are afraid some might lose their limbs. We hope an airplane will transfer the people to a hospital in Khartoum".

A spokesman of the Rizeigat tribe that inhabited the Samaha area said that the entire population asks for a quick intervention of the international community to prevent a full-scale war between Sudan and South Sudan. "We hope that the African Union and the United Nations will act fast otherwise we might be caught in the middle of another war".

SPLA blames SAF

The spokesman of the SPLA of South Sudan blamed the Khartoum government for starting the hostilities in the border area. He said: "Today 26 December the Sudan Armed Forces launched a ground attack on the SPLM base in Warguet. The ground attack was supported by air bombardments carried out concurrently from 8 o'clock up top twelve o'clock. The Antonov dropped 11 bombs in the morning and dropped 14 bombs at around twelve noon time."

According to the SPLA the southern army defeated the SAF of Khartoum and let them move back beyond Meiram (village in South Kordofan), but it could not prevent that two women and one child was killed. The SPLA claims that the area belongs to the South according to the recent agreement between SAF and SPLA in Addis Ababa.

He added: "The intention of this aggression is unknown, but the SPLA has been monitoring the other side of the border and the River Kiir before this unjustified attack took place today. Khartoum's forces have been trying to occupy this area of Warguet. But the SPLA will continue to frustrate them."

"We expect this is not the last attack on Warguet since it is attack number three. The SPLA is making precaution for another attack that Khartoum may plan," Aguer told Radio Dabanga.

Previous escalations

In May 2012 the situation in Warguet became also tense after the SLPA accused the SAF for bombing its territory. Although independent verification in the area was not possible, only fighting North of the river was confirmed by independent sources. The area is inaccessible for civilians. Church visitors authored a report on the situation in Warguet in December 2011. They already noticed that Warguet and other areas on the south bank of the Bahr El Arab/Kiir River are highly militarized.

Warguet is described as a 'military barrack' of the 3rd Division of South Sudan's army.

Bishop Abraham Yel Nhial led the visit together with military chaplains in order to provide spiritual encouragement to soldiers. He traveled in an army convoy to reach Warguet 'because the whole area was not secure,' according to the report by the Episcopal Diocese of Aweil.

"This place is a very dangerous and fearful place even those who have heavy machines hardly come here... it is a dangerous place only for soldiers," said Lt. Col. Gabriel Door, a commander at Warguet, as quoted in the diocesan report.

According to a detailed map authored by geographers at the University of Bern Centre for Development and Environment Geoprocessing Unit, who for years have mapped Sudan and South Sudan, the village 'War Guit' lies just about 5 kilometers south of the Bahr El Arab/Kiir River along the Wau-Babanusa railway.

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