By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
December 23, 2010 (BENTIU) – Unity State’s governor Taban Deng Gai and his counterpart across the in South Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun have called for the release of 27 buses carrying displaced southern Sudanese, detained 23 kilometer north of Hegilig oil field in Unity State.
Haroun has called for the immediate release of the returnees but has denied that group involved are from his state of South Kordofan, which borders Southern Sudan’s Unity state.
The displaced people from Khartoum were intending to travel to Bentiu and Wau in South Sudan ahead for the region’s independence referendum in January.
Officials in south Sudan have accused the Misseriya for being responsible for detaining the convoy since December 16. Relations between the Misseriya and the southern states that border the north, where the group spend some of the year looking for pasture for their cattle, remain strained despite the end of north-south conflict with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
During the north-south civil war many of the Misseriya fought in the Popular Defense Forces a military group aligned to the northern army the Sudan Armed Forces, which fought against the former rebels the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) that has governed the south for the last six years.
Gideon Gatpan Thaor the official spoke person of Unity State government said that between 2001 and this year the Misseriya have killed 31 people in the Abeimhnom County, seriously injured 13 people and stolen 140 cows, 57 goats as well as looting two cars.
Thaor added that Unity state authorities compensated the Misseriya with 134 cows for the five people the SPLA killed in the incidents. He said this was intended to restore a peaceful border crossing.
The spokesman went on to say that three weeks ago six SPLA soldiers were killed and seven seriously wounded by Misseriya on the Mayom- Rubkotna road.
In August the Unity state government issued a decree last allowing the Misseriya to enter that state to find pasture for their animals but this had now been rescinded as of December 19 in response to the detentions and recent attacks.
Thaor, who is also the states minister for information said, the closure of this route would help improve the security threat to returnees the entire state. He said there were suspicions in the south that the “Misseriya are being influenced by the Khartoum government to disrupt the referendum process”.
The minister called on Sudan’s president Omar Hassan Al-Bashir to find a solution to the instability the Misseriya were bringing to the south.
Sudan Tribune contacted local Misseriya chief Rahma Abdul Rahman but he refused to comment on the issue of the detained returnees on the Unity and South Kordofan border.