June 22, 2011 / 11:00 AM / 7 years ago

Factbox: Flashpoints in north and south Sudan

(Reuters) - Southern Sudan is set to secede on July 9 after a largely peaceful January referendum, but unresolved conflicts plague both the north and the south of the country. Sudan has been riven by disputes over ethnicity, religion, ideology, cattle ownership and oil for decades. The north and south have been at war for all but a few years since 1955. Below are some facts about the main flashpoints:

ABYEI

Both north and south prize the contested Abyei region for its symbolic, political and commercial importance, and neither side is likely to let go of their claim to the central territory without a struggle.

Juba and Khartoum both have important constituencies to please with their claims to Abyei, analysts say. The fertile grazing region is inhabited all year by the south-linked Ngok Dinka people and part of the year by Arab Misseriya nomads.

Abyei’s residents were promised a referendum on whether to join the north or the south but it did not take place after northern and southern leaders failed to appoint an organizing commission or agree on who was qualified to vote.

On May 21, the north seized control of the region’s main town with tanks and troops, drawing international criticism. More than 100,000 people have fled violence in the area, the United Nations says.

After more than a week of talks, the two sides signed a deal on June 20 to pull troops from Abyei and bring in Ethiopian peacekeepers. But analysts say the threat of renewed conflict will persist without a longer-term solution.

SOUTHERN KORDOFAN

While Southern Kordofan is part of the north, the oil state is also home to thousands of south-aligned fighters who sided against Khartoum during the last civil war.

Analysts say Khartoum feels threatened by the presence of the fighters — many of them ethnically Nuba. On June 5, the northern army clashed with southern-aligned fighters.

The north has said it will not tolerate thousands of armed troops inside its borders, and has demanded they disarm or leave. The southern army says it has no control over the fighters.

Humanitarian groups have said the region may become “another Darfur,” and human rights activists have accused Khartoum of targeting the Nuba population. The north denies this.

Analysts say that, without mediation, the fighting could turn into a long conflict, possibly harming north-south ties and emboldening other rebel movements in the north after the split.

BLUE NILE

The northern-run Blue Nile state is home to many supporters of the south’s dominant Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.

Khartoum has threatened to disarm southern-aligned fighters in Blue Nile, but so far no clashes have been reported.

Analysts say the region will be tense until there is a long-term political arrangement that would demobilize the fighters, integrate them into the Sudanese army or find another solution.

Under the 2005 peace deal that ended the north-south civil war, residents of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states were offered “popular consultations” to determine their relationship to Khartoum. They have not been completed.

DARFUR

Fighting is down from its peak in the western region since 2003 and 2004, but rebels, who are mostly not Arabs, continue to fight government troops backed by largely Arab militias.

Analysts say the south’s secession and fighting in other parts of the north could embolden the Darfur rebels, especially if fighting in Southern Kordofan drags on and leads Khartoum to withdraw troops from Darfur.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other northern officials on charges of war crimes in Darfur, complicating diplomatic ties. Khartoum does not recognize the court.

A surge in violence in Darfur since December has forced tens of thousands of people to flee. Hopes that Qatar-hosted peace talks would bring a resolution this year have faded since the most powerful rebel group pulled out of negotiations.

The United Nations says as many as 300,000 people have been killed during the conflict in Darfur, while Khartoum puts the death toll at about 10,000.

UNREST IN THE NORTH

The north stands to lose up to three-quarters of the country’s oil output when the south breaks away, potentially putting a hole in the state budget and pressuring the government to find new sources of revenue to plug the gap.

The government is struggling with high inflation, nearly $38 billion of debt and depreciation of the Sudanese pound.

Analysts say rising food prices and unemployment could fuel unrest in the north, particularly in areas where non-Arabs have felt disenfranchised by the country’s leadership.

So far the country has seen some small protests, many led by students, inspired by revolts in North African countries. Security forces have been able to disperse them quickly and prevent them from gaining any momentum.

INTERNAL SOUTHERN VIOLENCE

At least seven internal rebel militias are at war with the Juba government, which they say is corrupt and autocratic. The fighting has threatened to cripple the territory from the moment it becomes independent.

Tribal battles over cattle have intensified because many youths are unable to accumulate enough cows to pay dowries. There are frequent reports of mass raids on cattle.

More than 1,500 people have been killed in south-south violence since January, the United Nations says.

The south has accused Khartoum of masterminding the rebel militia in the south. The north denies this.

Reporting by Alex Dziadosz in Khartoum and Jeremy Clarke in Juba; Writing by Alex Dziadosz; Editing by Edmund Blair and Elizabeth Piper

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