Clashes disrupt voting in south Sudan oil state

January 9, 2011 12:00 am

, JUBA, Jan 9 – Clashes between renegade militiamen and south Sudanese troops disrupted voting in a landmark independence referendum in part of a key oil state on Sunday, the organising commission number two said.

"There has been some fighting because of certain militiamen but I am assured that the situation has been contained," Chan Reec told a news conference.

"I am optimistic that this will not impact the voting process," he added.

Reec said he had no details on any casualties from the fighting in Unity state, which abuts the north-south border.

Earlier, military spokesman Philip Aguer said the situation was calm on Sunday.

"There have been no fresh clashes today in Unity state. The situation is calm across the whole of south Sudan," he said.

The new fighting came after clashes between the militia and southern troops in the state\’s Mayom county on Friday and Saturday in which the army said it killed six fighters and captured 32 without sustaining any casualties.

Unity state is the location of some of the south\’s main oil fields, which were one of the key issues of conflict in the devastating 1983-2005 civil war with the north.

Both UN and military sources said the earlier clashes may have been the work of loyalists of Gatluak Gai, a renegade militia commander who rejected an amnesty offer from the southern government and whose forces are active in the area.

His is the only major Sudanese armed force still at war with the southern leadership after renegade senior southern army officer George Athor signed a "permanent ceasefire" on Wednesday.

The originally Uganda-based Lord\’s Resistance Army remains active and is widely feared in West Equatoria state on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.


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