Thousands flee renewed violence in Sudanese border state

Nada El-Kouny, Monday 5 Sep 2011

Renewed clashes between Sudanese government forces and forces aligned to South Sudan in the Blue Nile border state have forced thousands to flee their homes, as yet another refugee crisis threatens to hit Eastern Africa

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Sudanese students hold a demonstration outside the Republican Palace in Khartoum, Monday, against the attacks by SPLM forces in some villages Blue Nile State (AP)

Recent skirmishes have taken place in the Blue Nile state between forces loyal to the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), the ruling party of newly-independent South Sudan, and the Sudanese army. As a result, the Sudanese government banned the SPLM-North as a political party, arrested seven of its leaders, and closed its offices on Sunday.

The clashes, which have spread into neighbouring South Kordofan, have caused large numbers of residents to leave their homes. According to Agence France Presse, 16,000 people fled the town of Kurmuk after it was bombed on Friday, apparently causing the death of two women and a child, and disrupting the water supply.

Most of those fleeing made their way to neighbouring Ethiopia, which is already host to a large influx of those fleeing the Somali drought and conflict. 

The border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile State are contested by both Sudan and South Sudan, and their future was supposed to be decided by popular consultation, according to the terms of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. 

Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, emphasised in a press release, "We need, at all cost, to stop yet one more refugee crisis in a region of the world that has been witnessing in recent months so much suffering".   

The UN peacekeeping mission that was formerly responsible for patrolling the north-south border, UNMIS, is currently pulling out, as Khartoum has withdrawn its consent for their presence. 

The Sudanese government took drastic measures following the fighting that broke out on Friday, as it declared a state of emergency in the Blue Nile state. The governor, a member of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM), was also replaced with a military governor, taking his position until an urgent session is held on September 12 on the enforced state of emergency.

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