South Sudan Rebels Urge UN to Move Refugees Out of Conflict Zone
Publisher: IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis, UK
Author: Richard Cochrane
Story date: 16/11/2011
Language: English

The rebel South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) has urged the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to evacuate 15,000 Nuba refugees located near Bentiu in Unity State, saying they are blocking the path of its military advance. In a statement released on 14 November, the SSLA said if they were not contacted by the UNHCR by 20 November, they would launch an attack on Bentiu regardless of the civilian situation in the area. The rebels, who have repeatedly clashed with the South Sudan army in the area, allege that the governor of Unity State, Taban Deng, is refusing to move the refugees so as to secure UN military support when they are caught up in the fighting. The SSLA also criticised Deng for suggesting that they do not have the military capacity to capture Bentiu, citing attacks on Mayom on 28 October and Nhial Diew on 30 October as evidence of their capabilities.

The rebels claim to be fighting the government of South Sudan on behalf of the people of Unity State, pledging to free them from the alleged corruption and misrule of Juba. Sudanese refugees who have fled the fighting across the border in South Kordofan have mostly settled in Unity State and Upper Nile in northern South Sudan.

Significance: It is difficult to accurately assess the progress of the SSLA campaign in Unity State, with the rebels claiming to have won several notable victories, while the South Sudan army dismisses them as a serious threat. The aid group Oxfam last week (12 November) announced that it was withdrawing its staff from two locations in Unity State, citing increased instability in the region; suggesting that the rebels pose a credible threat. South Sudan's President Salva Kiir yesterday (15 November) accused the SSLA of waging a proxy war instigated by the Sudanese government with the intention of taking control of the oil-rich border region between the two countries. Escalating tensions between Sudan and South Sudan risks sparking a large-scale confrontation, as both sides continue to build up their forces along the border.

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