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South Sudan accuses North of supporting rebels

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Pete Muller/AP

(Read caption) A survivor of a massacre by rebel forces on the town of Fangak displays a bullet in front of burnt houses in Fangak, South Sudan on April 7, 2011.

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South Sudan will become independent in ten days, but its future stability is far from guaranteed. In addition to the host of final status issues (oil revenues and borders, for example) that remain unresolved between North and South Sudan, there is turmoil in South Sudan itself. Some seven rebel movements operate in the South, their grievances fueled in part by ethnic tensions and competition over resources. Now the regime in Juba is saying that the most famous of the South’s rebel leaders, renegade General George Athor, is plotting new attacks with Northern support:

Philip Aguer, the spokesman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA [the armed wing of the ruling SPLM party - Alex]), in a televised message on SSTV on Monday announced the intention of the militia leader, Athor, allied to the Khartoum government to destabilize the region.

Aguer said the army has reliable information that forces loyal to George Athor are being assembled and organized in the North Sudan’s Senar state which borders the Upper Nile state of South Sudan to launch attacks targeting the disputed areas between North and South Sudan as the region prepares to formally become independent in less than two weeks time.

The army spokesman accused the Khartoum government of supporting and arming the rebels and unleashing them to disrupt the process of smooth road to independence of the region.

Sorting out what is true and what is not in such allegations, particularly when it comes to the question of northern support for southern rebels, can be difficult. What seems absolutely clear, though, is that officials in Juba are worried about the prospect of further rebel uprisings, and that South Sudan is likely to enter independence still gripped by substantial violence.

Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.


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