Days after the results of the election to determine whether South Sudan would secede, violence exploded in the region, serving as a powerful reminder that although the independence referendum was a big step forward, the world can’t afford to take its eyes off Sudan. Forces loyal to George Athor, a former high-ranking southern army official who had previously rebelled against the southern government but signed a ceasefire last month, attacked two towns, killing over 100 people.
Athor ran for governor in the populous southern Jonglei state last spring, and after losing, rebelled against the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), the southern forces. He signed the ceasefire five days before the election, and many hoped that the south would be a much more peaceful place as a result.
“We were preparing for peace and we don’t know why he is waging war at the time when war has ended in Sudan,” Philip Aguer, the SPLA’s spokesman, said. “Meanwhile we still maintain the spirit of reconciliation because the amnesty is still holding. So if Athor stops fighting we will welcome him for reconciliation.”
Doctors treating the injured people say that they’re mostly dealing with gunshot wounds. Of the people who were killed, 39 were civilians, 24 were southern police, and the rest were rebels.
The violence is sobering, particularly in the context of south Sudan’s joy over its peaceful election process. U.N. officials say that they’re particularly concerned about civilian casualties, as they should be. They’re urging an immediate end to the attacks and say that they have reached out to both sides.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.