Growing tensions between Sudan and South Sudan

religion | Feb 10, 2012 | By Spero News

Reports are coming out of Sudan that the people of the Nuba mountain region are dying of starvation even while they endure bombardment. The Nuba mountains are in South Kordofan where clashes continue between the army controlled by the government in Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Army of the norther sector. The SPLA fought for the independence of Southern Sudan, which became a reality in July 2011.

Catholic Bishop Macram Max Gassis of  El Obeid, the diocese which straddles Sudan and South Sudan, averred that his flock is suffering as a result of the continued conflict. About the people of the southernmost region of Sudan, controlled by Khartoum, "the local population feels part of Southern Sudan, so much so that they use the south-Sudanese currency and not the currency issued by Khartoum. Soldiers of the SPLA of the Nuba Mountains fought for the independence of South Sudan : the state of West Equatoria (now part of South Sudan) was released by them. The south is so indebted to the fighters of the Nuba Mountains".

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, Bishop Gassis emphasizes that "no priest, man or woman religious, in addition to medical staff, have gone away. They are there to show that, as Jesus says, 'there is no greater love than to give one's life for his/her friends'. It is not easy to stay there, under constant bombardment and see mangled bodies of civilians, especially children."

Between South Sudan and Sudan tension is growing to the point that open conflict between the two States is feared. "But the new South Sudan does not want war", said Bishop Gassis. "The problem is President Omar Bashir, who is in a corner and hopes to come up with a new war. After losing the south, the Sudanese president tries to maintain control over areas of Sudan aimed to break free from central government" the Bishop explains. "The forces of Khartoum - Bishop Gassis continues - entered the Blue Nile but are surrounded by rebels. Then there are the critical situations of the Nuba Mountains, of Abyei and Darfur, which gets worse day by day. Now that the South has closed the oil valve, high prices will start to be felt in northern Sudan. Army officers have sent a memorandum to President Bashir, to the Minister of Defence and to the Chief of Staff, in which they complain about the conditions of the military".

"So there are a number of signals that concern the President, who therefore tries to solve problems with new wars", says the Bishop of El Obeid. "He was successful with the occupation of Abyei because it is a flat area. But the occupation of the Nuba Mountains is another thing. There are mountains with caves, where the local guerrillas can hide to suddenly attack the military in Khartoum. Guerrillas of the Nuba Mountains are also disciplined and well armed. This unfortunately does not prevent the suffering of the civilian population. Even the Church has had its victims, such as the representative of the diocesan Caritas killed in Kadugli (capital of Southern Kordofan) 5 months ago, a layman who was shot by the Sudanese troops" concludes Mgr. Gassis



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