by Matt Chancey
Every week there seems to be a new story about a violent attack somewhere in the Upper Nile Region of Southern Sudan. So far this year, more than 2,000 people have been killed and 250,000 displaced because of the violence.
The attacks are mainly between tribal groups settling old scores or simply seeking to steal cattle or other food supplies due to shortages from a drought this year. However, many Southern officials see a far more sinister cause in the recent violence. They claim the government in Khartoum is arming tribal militias and encouraging the violence.
As one would expect, the government in Khartoum denies the charges. But the reality is that Khartoum has a well-established tradition of arming local militias and promoting a campaign of terror which targets civilian population centers. This strategy was used extensively during the 20+ years of war in Southern Sudan, and more recently in the War in Darfur.
There are good political reasons why Khartoum would love to see a weak and unstable Southern government. First, in 2011, there is a scheduled referendum vote where Southerners are expected to vote to secede from Sudan and become an independent nation. Secondly, if Southerners secede, they will take with them the Upper Nile State, a region literally soaked with oil. This means the government in Khartoum will lose $ billions in revenue.
By weakening oil-rich border states, Khartoum lessens the likelihood of losing a major source of wealth.
In addition, PPF has reported for years about the intensive “Islamification” efforts in the Upper Nile region. Khartoum has spent a fortune establishing schools and building mosques along the White Nile and its tributaries. These efforts contribute towards destabilizing the region and encouraging locals to be loyal to the officially Islamic government in Khartoum vs the Democratic government in Juba.
The increasing violence in the Upper Nile has affected areas where PPF supports ongoing projects. Last month, we reported on the death of a boy named James, who lived in a village where PPF ministers. James was shot in a random act of violence by rival tribesmen. Recently, we learned from a pastor we support in the Upper Nile that one of his uncles was killed in an early-morning raid.
PPF is currently discussing with our contacts in the Upper Nile on the best course of action for us to take in supporting peace in the area. Please pray that God will bless our efforts and bring peace to this troubled area.