Clashes this week in Southern Kordofan, reportedly killing at least 16 people, followed attacks by militias on joint armed units deployed in accordance with the North-South peace agreement, a southern Sudanese military spokesman said.
"It is the militias doing all this," said Major General Daniel Peter Parnyang, a spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). "The whole thing started on 13 January. The first one was an ambush," Parnyang told IRIN in Juba on 16 January.
"This is [when] they killed one person from the Joint Integrated Units [JIU]. Then they attacked again in Khor [al-Dalayb village] where the JIU is deployed, killing another three."
The JIUs combine SPLA and northern troops deployed in Southern Kordofan in accordance with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended a 20-year North-South civil war.
Without specifying the armed militias, Parnyang denied they were mere nomads. "We call them militias because these people are well armed," he added. "We are wondering how they got so armed."
Southern Kordofan is mainly occupied by the Nuba, various central highland communities and pastoralist Baggara Arabs comprising the Misseriya and Hawazma. About 289,000 people have returned to the state since 2005.
Although located north of the 1956 border separating North and South Sudan, many of its inhabitants fought with the SPLA during the war against the North.
Like Abyei, it continues to be a troublespot. In December, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement’s (SPLM) highest decision-making body, the Political Bureau, complained that the number of Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) had increased in the state.
According to the SPLM, the SAF doubled its troops in Abujabiiha and Mandi areas. Numbers of Northern Sudanese troops had also increased in areas of eastern Jebel, which was vacated by SPLA troops in mid-2008.
"We understand now that there are fleets of SAF going into southern Kordofan, especially eastern Jebel; we don’t know what their fears are," SPLM spokesman Jien Matthew Chol said in December, a day after the Political Bureau had resolved to send a team to the area.
"The only claim in SAF circles is that JEM [Justice and Equality Movement, a Darfur rebel group] is trying to attack the area, which is actually not very true."
Chol claimed the SAF had been in the area since November. "Now there are more than six battalions with very big artilleries," he said. The area was a key battleground during the North-South war.
"What are all these big artilleries for? At least this is an announcement of war against somebody."
Sara Pantuliano, research fellow with the Humanitarian Policy Group, recently described Southern Kordofan as a state in political turmoil.
Widespread insecurity, grievances about lack of access to services and employment and the blockage of pastoralist movement towards the South had led a number of Misseriya youth to resort to armed violence, she noted.
Asked if the number of JIUs would be increased in the area, Parnyang said the force was not under the SPLA command. "The JIU is not under us, it is under the Presidency," he said. "A decision whether to increase JIU troops will have to be taken by the Presidency."
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions