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SPLM: Khartoum behind clashes in Abyei

Amid ongoing clashes between tribes in the contested border region of Abyei, southern Sudanese officials are accusing Khartoum of agitating the conflict

Asmaa El-Husseini from Juba, Tuesday 11 Jan 2011

The southern Sudan government is accusing President Omar Al-Bashir’s government of igniting a war in the Abyei region, a top southern official said.

At least 36 people died on Monday in clashes between the nomadic Misseriya tribe and the Ngok Dinka tribe, in the contested Abyei region, near Sudan's north-south border, as the referendum on southern independence underwent its second day.

“The National Conference Party, the ruling party, is behind the clashes in Abyei; Al-Bashir’s regime is pushing the southern government for a war but they will not get it” said Edward Leno, member at the political bureau of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and its envoy to the Abyei region.

He added that Al-Bashir’s government cannot deny its involvement since the southern government has captured mercenaries -- funded and armed by Khartoum -- involved in Abyei clashes.

Luka Biong, a senior southern official, said both sides were still trying to settle disputes over Abyei sovereignty, particularly how the region will divide its oil revenues. Leading members of Abyei's Dinka Ngok tribe, linked to the south, accused Khartoum of arming the Misseriya, adding that they were expecting more clashes.

In the meantime, UN peacekeepers have been sent to Abyei to investigate.

Abyei had been due to hold a simultaneous plebiscite on its own future but it has been indefinitely postponed amid deadlock between northern and southern leaders over who should be eligible to take part in the vote..

The Misseriya, heavily armed nomads who migrate to Abyei each dry season to find water and pasture for their livestock, insist they should have the same right to vote as the Dinka, settled agriculturalists who live in the district all year and are aligned with southern secessionists.

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