Nairobi – Aid workers and U.N. officials said recently that a sharp uptick in ethnic clashes in several areas in southern Sudan have killed an estimated 900 people in the past three months. The United Nations Mission in Sudan, or UNMIS, regional coordinator for the South David Gressely noted that if the recent violence and increased insecurity continues, "it will be very difficult to carry out activities related to the elections" slated for February 2010.
Based on the death tolls in the recent clashes, a statistic emerges that might be surprising to some:
If violence keeps up at the rate of the last few months, the fighting over cattle and territory is on pace to claim more lives this year than Sudan’s separate ongoing conflict in the western region of Darfur.
Meanwhile, Salva Kiir, the president of the Government of South Sudan, or GoSS, and a vice president in the national unity government in Khartoum, blamed the South’s recent ethnic clashes on proxy militias that he claimed were deployed by Khartoum. Speaking at a conference of traditional leaders and chiefs from numerous southern ethnic groups, Kiir said that:
There are people out there, including our own, who are crazy enough to say … that we are not capable of governing ourselves … cannot provide (our) own people with security.
No matter who is behind the recent violence, it is hard not to agree with Mr. Gressely’s concerns about the trajectory of the South in the coming months. These announcements, coming on the heels of increased tension and strong statements from the Southern leadership following Khartoum’s release of the official, region-specific census results yesterday, are certainly a worrisome indicator of what could be a very hot and dangerous run-up to Sudan’s elections.
This is part of a series of posts on southern Sudan by Enough policy assistant Maggie Fick, who is currently conducting research for Enough in the region.