North Sudan has been accused of providing arms that were used to attack barges carrying UN food aid. A governing party leader in South Sudan told the BBC arms were being distributed in the south to spread dissent between rival ethnic groups. Pagan Amum, secretary general of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa program Khartoum wanted to destabilize the region before a referendum on southern independence due in 2011.
About 40 South Sudanese soldiers and civilians were killed when tribal fighters ambushed boats carrying food aid June 12. Members of the Jikany Nuer tribe opened fire on 27 boats destined for an area controlled by the rival Lou Nuer. Hundreds have been killed and more than 135,000 displaced in South Sudan this year in tribal killings. The river attack is thought to be the first in which South Sudanese soldiers suffered significant casualties in the tribal clashes. (BBC News, June 15; Reuters, June 14)