South Sudan raids kill 24 as secession vote nears

KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Clashes between cattle raiders killed 24 people in Sudan’s south, the army said yesterday, in a region where authorities have yet to disarm the population fully before an independence referendum next year.

Separately, an international think-tank warned that the African Union must be better prepared for the south’s possible secession in eight months, or the chance that Khartoum’s Islamist government might try to derail the vote.

South Sudan won autonomy from the north of Africa’s largest country in a 2005 peace deal ending 22 years of civil war, and will vote in the referendum due in January 2011 on whether to become a fully independent nation.

In the latest tribal clashes, which killed an estimated 2,500 people in 2009 alone, south Sudan’s separate army said cattle raiders from the oil-producing Unity state attacked herders in neighbouring Warrap state.

“Some 15 people were killed from Warrap state and nine from Unity,” said south Sudan army spokesman Malaak Ayuen Ajok. The clashes began on Wednesday morning and were continuing, he added.

After decades of civil war and no stable government, southern Sudan’s mostly agricultural and cattle herding people armed themselves to defend their livelihoods.

Many analysts say that disarming them is vital for the region’s stability before the referendum.

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