July 21, 2006 (NAIROBI) — Clashes between Sudanese government troops and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in Rubkona, Unity State, this week claimed the lives of 28 people, of whom 17 were civilians, a German NGO reported.
“The clashes began as a local dispute on Monday. They then escalated and spread,” Johan van der Kamp, the Sudan coordinator for Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (German Agro Action), said in a statement on Thursday. He said his organisation had been forced to evacuate staff members from Rubkona to Khartoum because their offices came under fire during the fighting. “As many as 28 deaths have since been recorded, 17 of them civilians,” Van der Kamp added.
Unity State contains the largest oil fields in Sudan. During the civil war between the government and the SPLA, some of the fiercest fighting took place in that area, in particular since 1999, when oil extraction began. The Sudanese government was determined to maintain its hold on the region, arming and financing local militia to clear the area for oil extraction as well as to fend off the SPLA.
Political disagreements, power struggles and rivalries over the bounties of war, in addition to the ethnic make-up of the local militia, led to widespread inter-militia fighting, adding to the volatile security situation.
This week’s fighting was the first between central government troops and SPLA forces since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in Kenya on 9 January 2005. Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, the political wing of the SPLA, runs southern Sudan.