| BENTIU, South Sudan, April 25
BENTIU, South Sudan, April 25 Gatkuoth Duop had
bought new shoes, drunk a cup of sweet tea and was preparing to
go home when an MiG-29 fighter jet dropped a bomb on Rubkona
market just across the river from Bentiu in South Sudan.
The 12-year old boy was killed instantly, his scorched body
contorted in frozen terror.
"I miss him very much because I lost my friend who normally
plays with me and goes to school with me. We played football
together," said Duop's friend, Jida Simon, who saw him die
during the bombing on Monday.
Nestled in a savannah that has one of the largest oil
deposits in South Sudan, Bentiu town was a flash point for
trouble throughout decades of civil war between mainly Muslim
north and the south, where most follow Christian and animist
The civil war ended with a peace agreement in 2005 but
people in Unity border state worry that repeated border clashes
in the past three weeks will erupt into all-out war, nine months
after South Sudan became independent.
A few weeks ago Sudanese warplanes began bombing Bentiu,
about 80 km (50 miles) from a contested border, residents say,
as a dispute between the former civil war foes over oil revenues
and border demarcation finally bubbled over.
On Monday, Sudanese fighter jets dropped three bombs,
according to residents and military officials, killing at least
two people, including Duop.
The air strike in Bentiu, a dusty town with just one paved
road and mainly traditional Tukul houses, destroyed three market
stalls selling sugar, soap and other household goods to cinders.
"Everywhere people were crying and screaming. Everybody was
saying: 'Whose child was that?' and they were worrying. Then
they found out his name," said Nyanhial Bol, who runs a tea shop
across the road from where Duop died.
Bentiu residents fear their town may be the next target in a
conflict that has already damaged the contested Heglig oil field
which once produced nearly half of Sudan's oil production.
The feud has halted most oil production, strangling their
oil-dependent economies. "The bombing brought back memories and
made me worry that we might go back to war," Bol said.
Sudan and South Sudan have been locked in a dispute over oil
exports since July. The row pushed Juba to halt production of
350,000 barrels per day in protest after Sudan began taking some
oil from the South for what it calls unpaid export fees.
The latest skirmishes are concentrated in the oil-rich
regions which straddle the contested border.
South Sudan's army, the SPLA, seized the Heglig oil field
earlier this month, but finding itself internationally isolated
over the move, Juba withdrew from Heglig last week.
Days later Sudan's air force dropped bombs on the Unity
state, prompting indignation from South Sudanese who feel the
international community has let them down.
"In all of Unity state the people are not happy with the
decision that was taken ... (to withdraw) the troops from the
border but if it gives space for the peace and the international
community acts on time there will be no problem," said Joseph
Gatkuoth, a businessman at a tea stand.
"The problem will be the delay."
Sudan has denied carrying out the air strikes and accused
Juba of starting the fighting and troop build-up at border.
Much of the tension has been fuelled by bellicose rhetoric
by Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir and his southern counterpart
The SPLA's deputy director for military intelligence, Mac
Paul, says Khartoum is deploying more troops near the border
with the intention of taking Bentiu, an opinion echoed by many
"My feelings are they drove the SPLA south and I fear they
will make it further south all way to Bentiu," said Mussa
Gatsiam, a bus conductor at Bentiu bus station.
He said, though, there was no sense of panic in Bentiu as
only few had left the town since the start of the border
clashes. Many shops were open on Wednesday.
"People live and work here. They don't find jobs in Juba,"
Gatsiam said. "They adjusted to bombardments before the CPA
(2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement)."
No bombing was reported on Wednesday for the first time
since Friday but many people were still on edge.
"I do not want war to come back," Nyachar Teny, an old woman
standing in front of a freezer surrounded by charred plastic
bottled and cans of fizzy drinks. "It seemed like everyone was
finished with war."
(Writing by Yara Bayoumy and Ulf Laessing Editing by Maria