Sudan tribesmen attack security force, scores killed


Scores of people were killed when 3000 armed Arab tribesmen on horseback attacked security forces in Sudan‘s oil-producing Southern Kordofan region yesterday, tribal sources and officials said.

Sudan‘s Interior Ministry said the security forces were attacked close to the town of Meiram soon after arriving to try to prevent a fresh outbreak of fighting between warring Misseriya and Rizeigat nomads, Reuters adds.

“While our forces were making administrative and security arrangements (on Tuesday morning) to prevent the parties from fighting, the Rizeigat started heavy firing and attacked,” said the ministry’s statement.

“It is estimated the attackers were made up of 3000 fighters on horseback and 35 vehicles.”

One tribal source, who asked not to be named, said more than 100 tribesmen, security officers and civilians may have been killed in Tuesday’s clashes and other skirmishes between the tribes in recent days.

It was impossible to verify the figures. The ministry statement said there had been deaths and injuries among the security forces and civilians, but gave no figures and no reason for the attack.

The clashes were a reminder of the tense political situation in Southern Kordofan, which borders both the strife-torn Darfur region and southern Sudan, where tensions are still simmering four years after the end of a civil war with the north.

The Rizeigat and Misseriya have clashed in the past, in fighting often rooted in disputes over grazing land and access to water.

Clashes in recent years have been particularly fierce, fuelled by bad blood over past killings and a ready supply of arms from other conflicts. A series of reconciliation conferences have failed to achieve lasting settlements.

“They were armed to the teeth, both the Misseriya and the Rizeigat. There were heavy losses on both sides over the past few days,” said one senior member of the Misseriya tribe who asked not to be named.

“There were also deaths among the police who were also caught up in it all.”

The government raised the political temperature in Southern Kordofan earlier this month by naming a new governor — Ahmed Haroun, a divisive figure distrusted by local residents and wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

On taking up his new post, Haroun said one of his first priorities would be to arrange a reconciliation drive to end conflicts between all the region’s warring communities.

South Sudan to disarm civilians to end tribe clashes

Meanwhile, Reuters reports South Sudan‘s president says he will send out soldiers to disarm hundreds of thousands of civilians to stop a surge in tribal killings.

Hundreds have died in the clashes between ethnic groups in the oil producing region in disputes often sparked by land rights and cattle rustling.

Tribal conflicts are common in the south, but observers have been shocked by the scale of the violence, much of its fuelled by weapons left over from two decades of civil war.

“We will soon affect a comprehensive disarmament of all civilian populations in south Sudan,” said president Salva Kiir, speaking at an anniversary celebration of the founding of the south’s army.

He said the scale of this year’s fighting was unusual and part of a strategy by what he called “enemies of peace” to discredit the semi-autonomous south’s ability to run its own affairs.

Kiir’s Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) fought a civil war with northern Sudan that ended in 2005 with a peace deal that created a southern parliament and gave the region a share in the country’s oil revenues.

But a fall in the global oil price has had a crippling impact on the southern government’s budget and its ability to pay its soldiers and civil servants — another factor in growing discontent, say analysts.

Disarmament campaigns have run into trouble before in South Sudan. Some communities have objected and ended up fighting with soldiers and government officials sent to collect their weapons.

The spokesman for the south’s army, Malaak Ayuen, told Reuters Kiir had this time secured the agreement of tribal chiefs across the region.

“All of the leaders agreed that disarmament should not be delayed anymore,” Ayuen said.

The Small Army Survey research highlighted the risks in disarmament campaigns in the south in a report this year.

Drunk soldiers in a disarmament campaign in the southern town of Rumbek created havoc in September when they went on a day-long shooting spree, it said.

In Eastern Equatoria State, the report said, eight soldiers and 11 civilians were killed when violence broke out during a disarmament exercise in June.

Tuesday’s army celebrations featured a military parade that included three tanks and a range of heavy artillery.

Southern Sudan‘s relations with the north have been strained since the signing of the 2005 peace deal, and their armies have clashed, most recently over the central oil region of Abyei which is claimed by both sides.