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In the News
Last Updated: 05/21/2013Peacekeepers attacked in disputed Sudanese territory
Lawal Tsalha reviews the media coverage of attacks on peacekeepers in the disputed Sudanese territory of Abyei earlier this month.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has announced that a prominent tribal leader in the disputed Sudanese territory, Abyei, Kuel Deng Majok, the Chief of Madinka group who was also a UN peacekeeper has been killed following a stand-off between the Arab Misseriya militia and UN peacekeepers which happened on Saturday May 4, 2013.
According a Kenyan online media, the incident happened when a convoy of South Sudanese officials looking into the future of Abyei was surrounded by the Arab militia. Two peacekeepers from the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) were also seriously wounded.
Agence France Presse, (AFP) has reported that UNISFA was made up of Ethiopian peacekeepers and was created in a bid to halt tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, who have disputed Abyei ever since they split in July 2011. The Miseriya are close to Sudan while the Ngok Dinka are allied to South Sudan.
The United Nations Department of Information, in a press release has disclosed that UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon strongly condemns the killing of the Ngok Dinka paramount chief and expressed condolence to the Ngok Dinka tribe and the Ethiopian government.
According to the release, Ban Ki-moon urges the governments of Sudan and South Sudan and the Ngok Dinka and Misseriya communities to remain calm and avoid any escalation of the unfortunate event.
The press release stated that the UN secretary general said it was crucially important to set up joint government and policing arrangements as Sudan and South Sudan agreed in 2011.
Similarly, a website belonging to the government of Great Britain says, the United Kingdom Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds has expressed concern over assassination of the tribal leader and urged the Abyei community to show restraint. According to the website, the Minister has lamented that the incident highlights the urgent need for the governments of Sudan and South Sudan to implement agreements establishing interim institutions without further delay, and to make progress towards determining Abyei's final status. 
It could be recalled that, an Indian Media, The Indian Express has earlier reported that five Indian Army personnel, including a lieutenant colonel, serving on a UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan were killed on Tuesday 9, April 2013 when armed rebels launched an audacious attack on a convoy they were escorting.
According to The Indian Express, the Indian group, led by two officers and soldiers from the 9 Mechanised Infantry battalion and 6 Mahar Regiment, were targeted by suspected rebels who used small arms and rocket-propelled grenades.
The Indian Expressed has reported Indian authority describing the killing of the soldiers as supreme sacrifice. The Indian Expressed disclosed that a government source said the army group which was attacked was posted in the region last September.
According to an Indian website, there are around 2,200 Indian Army personnel in South Sudan comprising of two battalions, one based in Jonglei and the other in Malakal, Upper Nile, on the border with Sudan.
CBS news quoted South Sudan's military spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer, blaming the attack on fighters led by David Yau Yau, a rebel leader South Sudan believes is backed by Sudan and who it has battled for months.
Voice of America has reported that a statement issued by South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has added a voice to those condemning that attack on a United Nations' convoy in Jonglei state that killed five Indian peacekeepers and seven civilians.
In the statement released by Kiir's office Thursday, the president offered condolences to the families of those killed, the Indian government, and the United Nations, which he called a "trusted development partner, providing essential services to the people of South Sudan.
A Pan-Africa News Wire reported that, 10 days after the killing of the Indian army officers, a Nigerian UN peacekeeper was killed in an ambush by unidentified armed assailants on a UNAMID military position in Muhajeria, East Darfur, Sudan on Friday 19, April 2013, in which two other peacekeepers were injured in the incident.
A source reported that the UN, Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, and the United Nations Security Council, UNSC, have condemned the frequent killing of UNAMID peacekeepers in Sudan.
According to the source, spokesman to the UN secretary-general, Ban-Ki Moon, "the sectary-general was appalled and saddened by the fatal killings", adding that "he expresses his deepest condolences to the respective peacekeepers' countries and to the families and colleagues of the fallen peacekeepers."
The source further disclosed that, the spokesman stressed that the secretary-general condemned those responsible for the attack in the strongest terms, and urged authorities concerned to hold the perpetrators criminally accountable."
In a related development, UN Department of Public Information has reported that the UN Security Council (UNSC) issued a statement strongly condemning the attack on UNAMID peacekeepers, urging the Sudanese government to swiftly investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.
A report issued by the United Nations says the peacekeeping force was established in 2007 to protect civilians in Darfur, and it has now 20,852 uniformed personnel on the ground, mostly from African countries.
The report disclosed that more than 300,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict since rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government nearly 10 years ago, accusing it of discrimination and neglect.
On the other hand, a Sudanese media, Sudan Tribune has reported that the SLM-MM has been critical of the role of UNAMID in Sudan, slamming Darfur UN peacekeepers for failing to protect civilians. They claim that most of the time, victims were people who gather outside the UN mission’s base in Labado seeking protection.
The report says, Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), also, accused militiamen who entered Labado recently during clashes with SAF soldiers of killing nine civilians, wounding five and torturing two others.
Sudan Tribune stated that Muhajeria and Labado have been the scene of fierce fighting between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and rebels from a faction of the SLM-MM, who earlier seized control of the strategic towns.
It was further stated by the Sudanese media that violence in the two towns has forced thousands of civilians to flee their homes, with an estimated 18,000 seeking refuge around UNAMID bases in the area.
The Sudan Tribune revealed that the UNAMID, on its part was investigating the events surrounding the incident and allegation by the SLM-MM, and is currently working with the Sudanese government.
Mean wile, Voice of America (VOA) has reported that rebels led by David Yau Yau have claimed responsibility for an attack in Pibor, in which a South Sudanese soldier was killed, and warned civilians and NGOs to leave the areas around Pibor and Kapoeta, threatening to mount more attacks.
According to the report rebel spokesman Peter Konyi Kubrin said in an email that Yau Yau's fighters had carried out the deadly attack in Pibor recently, and warned that more violence was on its way.
The VOA said rebels, who call themselves the South Sudan Democratic Army, also issued a statement rejecting an amnesty offer from South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, and called for the government to be dissolved.
VOA narrated that Yau Yau first rebelled against the government in 2010 after failing to win a seat in the state parliament. In 2011 he accepted an earlier offer of amnesty from Kiir and returned to Juba where he was promoted to the rank of general in the SPLA. But lastly , he resumed his rebellion against Juba.
According to VOA the South Sudanese government has earlier tried to engage Yau Yau in peace talks, but when their effort came to naught, they vowed to defeat the rebel group militarily.
According to a report by the Sudan Tribune, Sudanese rebels claimed responsibility of recent attack on five areas in North and South Kordofan states, widening an anti-government offensive in one of their most audacious acts in years.
The Sudan tribune has earlier reported Abdel Wahid Mohammed al-Nur, who heads a faction of Darfur's Sudan Liberation Army in an interview with Assotiates France Internationale (AFP) saying that the move was a significant shift in the war in Sudan,", told AFP.
A report by the Sudan Tribune stated that residents in the South Kordofan state capital Kadugli said suspected rebel shelling was earlier reported on the outskirts of the town in which there was no immediate word of casualties.
The report further stated that in Umm Rawaba, the second largest town in North Kordofan, residents said rebels have once recently arrived the town on at least 20 vehicles for a brief occupation. They fired their weapons into the air, causing panic, but met no initial resistance from security forces.
The Sudan Tribune directly quoted the residents saying "We just saw some drones in the air," one resident said, adding that the insurgents looted the market.
It further said the town's inhabitants cowered in their homes as rebels shot at government buildings, hitting policemen, before withdrawing. The number of casualties could not be confirmed.
The Sudan Tribune further said North Kordofan has been largely free from the rebel activity taking place in the Darfur region to its west, and South Kordofan to its south.
It was reported by the Sudan tribune that a spokesman of Darfur's Justice and Equality, Gibril Adam Bilal, has revealed that the insurgency is part of their strategy to overthrow the regime.
Another report by the Sudan Tribune said the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Mr. Ali Al-Za'tari has expressed his shock at the rebel attack, which occurred on Umruwaba area and other places in North Kordofan and the renewed shelling of Kadugli from those he called them anti-government forces.
The report disclosed that Al-Za'tari said, in a statement he issued in Khartoum, the outbreak of the cycle of violence adversely affect the humanitarian situation in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan as well as the efforts being exerted to provide development support.
The report stated that the representative of the UN Resident emphasized that the violence undermines the efforts being exerted realize a peaceful solution to the conflict in Sudan, adding that it also represents a disappointment, particularly in the context of the direct talks between the Sudanese government and the SPLM Northern Sector, which was recently launched in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
The report further stated that Al-Za'tari stressed that the destruction of civilian facilities such as fuel stations and other facilities was not the way to realize peace, pointing out that after two continuous years of fighting, the parties should grant the direct talks a chance to reach a peace.
The Sudan Tribune said Al-zatari has reaffirmed that the United Nations stands ready to provide humanitarian support, including the necessary vaccines for children, but that should be in a position the fighting not threatens the lives of employees and partners in this area.
Lawal Tsalha is a Nigerian journalist and an Intern with the Peace and Conflict Monitor.