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10 dead after S. Sudan army fires on protestors: UN
by Staff Writers
Juba, South Sudan (AFP) Dec 09, 2012

'Touch and go' ahead of Sudan-South Sudan talks
Khartoum (AFP) Dec 9, 2012 - Progress on demilitarising the tense border between Sudan and South Sudan is uncertain, observers said, as the south's Defence Minister John Kong arrived in Khartoum for security talks on Sunday.

The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan agreed more than two months ago to establish the demilitarised buffer zone to cut support for insurgents -- allegedly backed by the South -- and to allow a resumption of South Sudanese oil exports through northern pipelines.

The deals came after their countries fought a border war in March and April. They were part of a wide-ranging package to resolve security and economic tensions but have not been implemented, sparking international concern.

"I think the important part is, at least they're still talking," an African diplomat said, asking for anonymity.

Speaking before Kong's arrival, he said that although there might be "some movement" on security issues, "It's touch and go."

The focus is on trying to start joint monitoring by the two countries of the proposed demilitarised zone, the diplomat said, adding: "That's what everybody's pushing for."

Khartoum has repeatedly accused South Sudan of supporting the South's former civil war allies who are fighting in Sudan's border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

Sudan has insisted that security be assured before the economic deals are implemented.

Bundling the issues in this way, rather than treating them one at a time, makes a resolution difficult, said El Shafie Mohammed El Makki, head of political science at the University of Khartoum.

"You cannot put them in one package and try to solve them in one blow," he said.

Princeton Lyman, the United States special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, said late last month that a lack of trust between Khartoum and Juba has prevented implementation of the deals.

Obtaining that trust will be difficult unless the rebellion ends in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, he warned.

In January, South Sudan halted crude production -- which accounts for almost all of its government revenue -- after accusing Khartoum of theft in a long-running dispute over transit fees.

The South separated in July 2011 under a peace agreement that ended a 1983-2005 civil war.

At least 10 people have been killed after South Sudanese troops fired on demonstrators angry at officials moving the seat of local authority outside a state capital, the United Nations said Sunday.

Four people were killed in the town of Wau during clashes overnight Saturday, while six were shot dead on Sunday after they gathered to protest the previous night's killings, said UN peacekeeping mission spokesman Liam McDowall.

"A crowd demonstrating the excessive use of force -- in their opinion -- gathered in the town with the intention to go and demonstrate outside the governor's residence... the SPLA opened fire," McDowall said.

There were conflicting reports however as to whether some of the demonstrators had been armed.

"We are investigating the allegations of armed elements inside the demonstrations, as well as allegations of the disproportionate use of force by the army against civilians," McDowall added.

Protests began after officials said they would move the seat of local authority out from Wau, capital of Western Bahr el Ghazal state, to a nearby smaller settlement of Bagare.

Troops were sent in on Saturday to remove protestors blockading roads leading out of Wau, while UN peacekeepers had been shuttling between demonstrators and the army to try to calm both sides.

"A number of protestors fled to the cathedral where they took sanctuary," McDowall said. The army later surrounded the building and had to be persuaded back to their barracks by the Bishop of Wau, he added.

The situation was "still tense" on Sunday and the authorities had issued a curfew from dusk until dawn, McDowall said.

Army spokesman Kella Kueth said the matter was being investigated but could provide no further details.

South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, is awash with weapons after decades of war with Sudan, which it broke free from in July 2011.

Its security forces are made up of former rebel fighters, many who have struggled to integrate into a well-ordered and cohesive force, despite UN-backed efforts to provide training.

A peace deal was signed in 2005 to end decades of civil war -- a key stepping stone towards South Sudan's eventual independence -- but the fledgling nation remains volatile.

Violence is common in the grossly impoverished state, with age-old cattle raids becoming increasingly deadly due to the ready availability of guns and women and children often being killed in what were once attacks to steal livestock.


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