At least 50,000 people have been
forced to flee their homes in southern Sudan because of
militia attacks and fighting between Sudanese government
and rebel forces, the United Nations said.
The clashes over the past few weeks have occurred despite
an October 2002 cease-fire between the government and the
Sudan People's Liberation Army and despite a nearly
two-year peace process aimed at ending the 21-year-old
Since early March, the United Nations has received reports
of villages, schools and health clinic being destroyed and
looted, as well as incidents of rape in Shilluk Kingdom, in
the northern Upper Nile region, the U.N. Humanitarian
Coordinator for Sudan said in a statement Sunday.
Most of the attacks have been carried out by militia
opposing the rebels, said Ben Parker, a U.N. spokesman.
"The most serious fighting that has affected civilians
have been from militia targeting civilian settlements,"
Parker said by telephone from Sudan. "Fighting between
government troops and SPLA is a much smaller element in the
conflict as far as we know."
U.N. agencies and aid groups have been forced to suspend
operations in the area because of the violence.
Yasir Arman, a spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation
Army, accused the militia of carrying out the attacks with
He said the area is a stronghold of an allied rebel group,
which joined the Sudan People's Liberation Army after its
leader, Lam Akol, defected from the government.
Ad' Dirdeiry M. Hamed, Sudan's deputy ambassador to Kenya,
said no government troops were involved in the fighting. He
said the clashes pitted rival groups of a southern faction
against each other.
Sudan's civil war erupted in 1983 when rebels from the
mainly animist and Christian south took up arms against the
predominantly Muslim and Arab north.
More than 2 million people have perished in Africa's
longest-running conflict , mainly through war-induced
famine, but fighting has slowed since the warring parties
began peace talks in July 2002.
Negotiations, which are taking place in Kenya, are nearing
their conclusion but are currently deadlocked on key
These include whether Khartoum, the capital, should be
governed under Islamic law and the details of power-sharing
for two disputed areas in central Sudan.