December 30, 2012 (WAU) - South Sudan accused the Sudanese government Monday of “rounding up” its nationals living in the troubled western region of Darfur, which shares a direct border with the South’s Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal State.
Juba made the allegation in the wake of accusing the Sudanese army of carrying out coordinated air and ground attacks on 26 December on Kiir Adem, a locality which lies within the disputed "14 Miles" area.
In the security arrangements of the Cooperation Agreement the two countries signed last September, Mile 14 was designated as part of the demilitarized area along the 1,800km border in order to decrease tensions over contested areas.
At least five people were killed, South Sudan’s army (SPLA) said last week, following aerial and ground attacks allegedly carried out by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) on Wednesday.
According to the United Nations, 4,000 people were displaced in Northern Bahr el Ghazal from the areas surrounding Kiir Adem following previous bombings between 20 and 23 November.
In a further illustration of the border tensions, South Sudan’s army on Friday accused the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) of holding hostage South Sudanese farmers which it had kidnapped from across the border from Upper Nile State.
South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July 2011 but many issues, including border demarcation and contested areas such as Abyei, remain unresolved. The September agreement appeared to resolve the issues of oil transit fees and citizenship rights but these aspects have not been implemented due to the impasse over security arrangements.
The September deal agreed to accord citizens of both states the freedom of residence, freedom of movement, freedom to undertake economic activity and freedom to acquire and dispose property in both countries.
There are no definite statistics giving details of the number of South Sudanese living in Darfur, although authorities estimate that between 3,000 and 6,000. Most of them come from the states of Warrap, Western and Northern Bahr el Ghazal.
Sudanese security forces in Abumatharik, which is an area under Dhein administration in East Darfur State, "collected and rounded up our people" a member of South Sudan’s national parliament said Sunday.
"This is a dangerous move which shows bad intention. I fear they may be killed, if the international community does not move in quickly to rescue them", said Mel Wal Achien MP, who represents Northern Bahr el Ghazal’s Aweil North County.
The legislator said he feared for the citizens as the incident has occurred in the same location as the infamous 1987 Dhein massacre.
“They have been rounded up in the same area with known history of killing people at will. This is the area where law is not observed. It is where our people were collected and allowed to be killed at [a] police station in 1987 when we were still one country with equal rights as citizens of the same country”, he explained.
Aweil North County commissioner, Kuol Athuai Hal, also confirmed receiving similar reports but said he does not know how many South Sudanese citizens have been held by Sudanese security forces in Abumatharik.
The information had been passed from the Northern Bahr el Ghazal state administration to the central government in Juba, Commissioner Hal said, adding that he hoped that international community will put pressure on the government of Sudan to release the citizens.
He asked South Sudanese, especially relatives of the people being held, to remain calm and not to take part in any retaliatory acts against people from Darfur who live and work in Northern Bahr el Ghazal.
“I call on our people to leave this to the government to handle it. We have made contacts with higher level of government. We have contacted office of our governor to inform him of this incident and he has passed it to the president”, said commissioner Hal.
Hal said the incident may be linked to the 26 December clash between the armies of Sudan and South Sudan in Kiir Adem. Hal told Sudan Tribune on Wednesday that five people were killed and another was injured when the Sudan Armed Forces launched ground and aerial attacks on the area.
He claimed that SAF were targeting civilians and attempting to dislodge SPLA forces from the area. Since Mile 14 was included in the buffer zone three months ago politicians from the state have expressed the anger that the area was included in demilitarized area.
The alleged arrest of the South Sudanese in Darfur was in "anger" after suffering a defeat by the SPLA in Kiir Adem, Hal said.
"The Sudanese armed forces miscalculated their attack. They thought they would carry out the attack to take over the area because they thought our forces were engaged with Christmas celebrations. They did not know our troops were aware of these preparations by [the] Sudan Armed Forces to attack Kiir Adem at any time, especially during Christmas where they thought that every soldier would be on leave with parents enjoying Christmas and the area may remain alone", he explained.