Sudan: January 29, 2003


The Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) resumed peace talks with the government on January 28, after walking out the day before in protest of a government offensive in Western Upper Nile (Wahdah State).
"Intense fighting" tool place for an hour around midday on January 27, between Sudanese government air and ground units against the SPLA. The fighting had spilled over from the day before and saw the SPLA under heavy shelling abandoning the city, while government troops continued their offensive into the surrounding countryside.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher in a statement issued later that same day, telling the Sudan that "any ongoing offensive by the Government ... constitute a flagrant violation of the cessation of hostilities ... If these reports are true, the government risks losing its credibility as a serious partner for peace with both the United States and the international community". The US-led Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) was en route to the scene of the reported attacks to conduct an investigation.

The fighting around and south of the garrison town of Leer forced the NGO "Doctors Without Borders - Holland" to evacuate five staff members from projects in Thonyor and Dablual, located about 20-25 km (or two hours' walk) away. Around Dablual, MSF staff had been helping refugees who had fled fighting north of Leer (over 800 km south of the capital) on January 24.

Over the last four weeks, fighting in Wun (Wahdah State) had been concentrated in Mayom county and around the oil fields south of Bentiu. Several villages had been burnt down, and five major towns previously under SPLA control had been retaken, since 31 December 2002. There appeared to be a deliberate attempt to attack relief sites in Mayom county, which cut off the locals from humanitarian assistance.

Around the oil fields, government forces appeared to be clearing the road from Mirmir to Leer and perhaps also from Leer to Adok, by pushing back the SPLA and any local residents who might harbor the rebels. Can anyone say "Scorched Earth Policy"? - Adam Geibel


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