May 25, 2010 / 8:30 AM / in 9 years

UN evacuates 10 aid staff after south Sudan clashes

By Skye Wheeler

JUBA, Sudan, May 25 (Reuters) - The United Nations evacuated 10 aid workers from a remote part of south Sudan after an armed group disappointed with April election results clashed with the region’s army, a World Food Programme official said.

Matt Persson, head of the WFP office in Jonglei state, said a crisis in the semi-autonomous south, where half the population is short of food, could worsen if the instability continued.

South Sudan will vote in less than eight months on whether to become Africa’s newest nation state.

"The security situation was getting bad," Persson told Reuters late on Monday. "There were reports of mobilisation of soldiers and that the population was moving out of the town... We decided to relocate."

He said 11,000 people would not be distributed food in Pibor in Jonglei where the fighting took place. "(But) if this continues 62,000 people will be affected in June," he said.

Jonglei state, where French oil giant Total (TOTF.PA) holds a largely unexplored oil concession, is one of the worst hit areas in the food crisis and has seen deadly tribal fighting.

David Yauyau, leader of the armed group which clashed with the south Sudan army on Thursday, had run for parliament for the opposition United Democratic Front party but lost.

He accused the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) of fraud and intimidation during the vote.

"No other political party was allowed to win, this has angered everyone... Voters were threatened and beaten," Yauyau told Reuters.

The south Sudan army (SPLA) said he attacked an army base killing one soldier and wounding three others. Yauyau confirmed the clashes but did not give details.

Also in Jonglei a senior south Sudan army officer George Athor rebelled on April 30 after losing gubernatorial polls to the official SPLM candidate, and has since fought with the army.

Yauyau said he was in touch with Athor and that they shared the same cause. He declined to say if he would join Athor’s forces.

Analysts fear tribal violence over cattle raiding or ethnic rivalries could stabilise a newly independent south Sudan, spilling over into the region. An estimated 2,500 people died in 2009 in southern tribal violence alone.

Sudan’s north-south civil war, which has raged on and off since 1955, claimed an estimated 2 million lives and drove 4 million from their homes.

A 2005 peace deal ended the conflict fought mainly over oil, ethnicity, ideology and religion. The Jan. 9, 2011 southern plebiscite on secession was part of the accord. (Writing by Opheera McDoom; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

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