Ex-Rebels Condemn Sudan
by The Associated Press
Former southern rebels expressed dismay Sunday over the Sudanese president's warning that his government was ready to go back to war if necessary.
A 2005 peace agreement that ended a 22-year civil war between north and south Sudan appears increasingly shaky since Cabinet ministers from the south walked out of the national unity government last month. Southerners accuse President Omar al-Bashir of failing to live up to its commitments under the agreement.
A return to fighting across central and southern Sudan would likely exacerbate a separate conflict in the western Darfur region, where more than 200,000 people have been killed since ethnic African rebels took up arms against al-Bashir's Arab-dominated government in 2003.
Al-Bashir raised tensions with the south Saturday when he warned that those seeking to bring war to the north "should bear the consequences."
"We will not seek war, but if imposed on us we are ready," he told a rally marking the anniversary of a paramilitary force created to fight the southerners during the war.
The southern Sudanese People's Liberation Movement, or SPLM, said it was committed to peace and does not want to return to war.
The movement expressed "deep regret for the statements issued by the leadership of the National Congress in which they threaten to go back to war," spokesman Pagan Amum said in a statement published in the Arabic daily Akhbar Alyoum on Sunday.
But a powerful leader in the ruling National Congress Party, Nafie Ali Nafie, downplayed al-Bashir's comments, telling the independent daily Akhir Lahaza that "our relations with the SPLM will never go to the brink of collapse."
The civil war between the Arab and Muslim-dominated north and the mainly Christian and animist black southerners claimed some 2 million lives.
The SPLM accuses Khartoum of multiple breaches to the 2005 peace deal, including not sharing the country's oil wealth as agreed, failing to pull troops out of southern Sudan, and remilitarizing contested border zones where the main oil reserves are located.