Thousands flee deadly tribal clashes in South Sudan

AFP , Thursday 7 Apr 2011

South Sudan, soon to be Africa's newest nation, suffers ethnic clashes in the latest in a wave of violence

Thirteen people have been killed in clashes in South Sudan’s troubled Mvolo County, the latest in a wave of violence between rival ethnic groups that has forced 34,000 to flee their homes, officials said Thursday.

Fighting along the cattle-herding border region between the southern states of Western Equatoria and Lakes first broke out in February.

A second wave of clashes erupted in mid-March after a motorcycle driver was killed in an ambush, sparking tit-for-tat reprisal raids between the Dinka Atuot and the Beli ethnic groups.

A United Nations humanitarian assessment report released earlier this week estimates that more than 34,000 people have been displaced since the intermittent clashes first erupted in mid-February.

"Fighting first broke out on February 9-10, followed by a second wave of fighting from 9 March in the eastern part of Mvolo County, which spread to an area of over 100 kilometres (60 miles) in the border regions," the report said.

The latest clashes happened as meetings took place between the governors of the two states to try to resolve the violence.

UN and other aid agencies have sent medical kits, food and other basic supplies to those displaced by the violence.

The clashes are separate from the rebel uprisings in the south’s oil-rich Greater Upper Nile region, where fighting has left hundreds of people dead, many of them civilians.

Although no recent clashes have been reported there, tensions remain high in those areas, according to the UN report.

Some 80,000 people have been displaced due to fighting throughout the south since January, UN officials estimate.

South Sudan is due to gain full independence as Africa's newest nation on 9 July after southerners voted almost unanimously for secession in a landmark referendum in January.

The region is also struggling to support more than 260,000 people who have returned from north Sudan since last October, ahead of the southern independence.

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