Warring Sudan Opposition Party Rejects Disarmament
Leaders of Sudan's main opposition group, whose men are fighting government troops in South Kordofan, on Saturday rejected calls to disarm and said they would negotiate only via an outside third party.
The northern branch of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, the ruling party of South Sudan, in a statement also accused the government of seeking to destroy north-south relations just two weeks after formal southern independence.
SPLM-north chairman Malik Agar, his deputy Abdelaziz al-Hilu and the party's secretary general Yasser Arman met in South Kordofan earlier this week for just the second time since the conflict there erupted on June 5.
"The meeting praised and valued... the refusal of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) to be disarmed, in addition to the impressive victories achieved under the leadership of Comrade Abdulaziz al-Hilu," the group said.
For more than six weeks, heavy fighting including relentless air strikes has raged across South Kordofan between government troops and Nuba militiamen led by Hilu, who fought with the former rebel army of the south during its devastating 1983-2005 civil war with Khartoum.
An internal U.N. report seen by Agence France Presse said the conflict was triggered by the Sudanese army's insistence on expelling or forcefully disarming SPLA elements in the border state at the beginning of June.
The report also said the army's systematic attacks, targeting the region's indigenous Nuba peoples, could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, claims dismissed by Khartoum which insists it is fighting an internal rebellion.
Agar signed a framework agreement with top presidential aide Nafie Ali Nafie in Addis Ababa late last month that boosted hopes of a permanent political and security settlement for Blue Nile and South Kordofan, both northern states with a large number of SPLM supporters.
But President Omar al-Bashir dealt a blow to those hopes when he said three days later that he had ordered the army to cleanse South Kordofan of rebels.
A majority of National Congress Party (NCP) members also voted to reject the accord, in a sign of growing disunity within the north's ruling party.
"The leadership of the NCP takes full responsibility for what results from its rejection of the Addis Ababa framework agreement, especially its insistence on war as a means to resolve the dispute," the SPLM-north said.
"A peaceful negotiated solution remains the best option for the people of Sudan," it said, adding that the party would negotiate only through a third party and outside Sudan.
Separately, the SPLM-north accused the NCP of working to destroy the relationship between Juba and Khartoum by threatening to expel "millions" of southerners from the north and preventing food and fuel from reaching the south.
Earlier this week, Sudan's parliament adopted a law that cancels the Sudanese nationality of most southerners residing in the north, thought to number more than one million, leaving them without any legal basis to stay.
And in May, Khartoum restricted supplies of food and fuel to the resource-rich but landlocked and chronically underdeveloped south, forcing prices there to surge.
Bashir insists that he wants South Sudan to succeed, saying in a conciliatory speech at the independence ceremony in Juba on July 9 that "its success will be our success."