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South Sudan Army Says Tribesmen Kill 20 Villagers; Accuse Ex-Foreign Minister

Tribesmen killed 20 people, including a chief and his family, in an attack on a south Sudan village in the latest violence in the oil-producing territory, the South Sudan army said on Saturday. A southern army spokesman accused Sudan's former foreign minister Lam Akol, now the leader of a breakaway political party, of arming the attackers from his Shilluk tribe. Akol dismissed the accusation. The Shilluk tribesmen attacked the village of Bony-Thiang in Upper Nile state on Friday morning, killing civilians of the Dinka tribe, the army said. Dinka fighters mounted a retaliatory attack on a nearby Shilluk village on Buol on Saturday morning, killing at least five, said army spokesman Kuol Diem Kuol.

Rival tribes from Sudan's underdeveloped south have clashed for years in disputes often caused by cattle rustling and long-running feuds, but violence has soared this year. The United Nations said the attacks could mar preparations for Sudan's first multi-party elections in 20 years, scheduled for April 2010. They could also affect the security of oil installations across the region. Southern politicians have accused north Sudan's dominant party, the National Congress Party (NCP), of trying to destabilize the south by provoking and arming rival tribes. The NCP denies the accusation. Sudan's mostly Christian south fought the Muslim north in a two-decade civil war that ended in a 2005 peace accord. The deal created a semi-autonomous southern government, allowed the south to keep an army and promised elections, followed by a referendum on southern independence in 2011.

Analysts say Khartoum's elite is nervous about the prospect of an independent south, a region which holds most of the country's proven oil reserves. Southern army spokesman Kuol Diem Kuol accused the north of conspiring with Lam Akol to arm the Shilluk attackers and encourage them to take revenge for past Dinka raids. Akol formed a new party, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement for Democratic Change (SPLMDC) in June, splitting from the main southern party, the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM). "(Lam Akol) was all this time arming the Shilluk to allow the Shilluk to retaliate against Dinka, this is typical of the NCP--to arm civilian populations," Kuol said. The attackers killed Dinka chief Thon Wai with his two wives and three children, and burned down Bony-Thiang, 45 km (28 miles) north up the river Nile from state capital Malakal, he said.

Akol dismissed the accusations of his involvement. "This is absolute nonsense," he told Reuters. "Their intention is to smear the good name of myself and the SPLM-DC." The accusations will stir painful memories of divisions between southern leaders during the north-south civil war, a conflict which killed an estimated two million people. At the height of the war in 1991, Akol and other commanders defected from the southern rebel army and formed their own force. The split, which largely followed ethnic lines, led to a series of inter-tribal clashes.
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Title Annotation:Today's News Highlights
Publication:The Daily Middle East Reporter (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Sep 7, 2009
Words:493
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