SUDAN: Militia movements reportedly fuelling tension in the east
NAIROBI, 11 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - Recent movements of armed militias around the eastern Sudanese town of Akobo in Jonglei State have led to increased tension in the area, humanitarian sources told IRIN.
"Some 700 militia were heading to Akobo from Nasir [near the Ethiopian border], during the first week of March," one source said on Wednesday. "The troops came very close, up to an hour's walking distance, and camped there for a day or so," he added.
Another source within the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) however, said the militias, which were grouped under the umbrella of the South Sudan Defence Force, were pulling back from the area.
On 17 February, fighting broke out when armed militias attacked Akobo. They were reportedly under the command of Taban Juoc, who was recently promoted to the rank of Brigadier by the Sudanese government.
"The unprovoked attacks on SPLM/A positions in the town of Akobo by renegade Commander Taban Juoc are a direct violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ," Samson Kwaje, spokesman for the SPLM/A said in a 4 March statement.
"Given the fact that Juoc is a brigadier in the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), he should of necessity observe all provisions of the CPA," Kwaje added.
Juoc denied involvement in the attack on Akobo in an interview with the Sudan Radio Service on 25 February, adding that he was the legitimate commissioner of Akobo appointed by the government of Sudan.
"I did not go to Akobo," Juoc said on the radio. "I'm with the Sudan government and I am already integrated as [a] Brigadier in the SAF."
The SPLM/A retook Akobo on 20 February and its Commander Dou Yaak said the armed group that briefly occupied Akobo had killed three SPLM/A soldiers. He also said the armed men had destroyed part of the hospital and the church, and burnt down approximately 2,000 tukuls (grass huts).
Meanwhile the UN Security Council has extended the mandate of the UN Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS), headed by the special representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, by a week to allow more discussion on a draft resolution on Sudan.
However, in an open letter to Council members, nine major advocacy and humanitarian groups called for a bold resolution. "Security Council members have the responsibility and authority to protect international peace and security," they said. "This requires bold and effective measures."
They added: "We urge the Council to pass a strong resolution - one that ensures accountability through a referral to the International Criminal Court and provides enforceable mechanisms to protect the people of Darfur."
The letter was signed, among others, by the former Australian foreign minister, Gareth Evans, the head of the International Crisis Group, Aryeh Neier, President of the Open Society Institute, and Ken Roth, head of Human Rights Watch.
UNAMIS was established in June 2004 to prepare for a future UN peace-support operation following the signing in Kenya on 9 January of a comprehensive peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A.