Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

War echoes in new country

Situation tense in South Sudan

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After celebrating the birth of their new country last year, South Sudanese refugees in Winnipeg fear the war for independence may return.

"It's building up on the border," said David Atem, who founded the advocacy group Eyes on Sudan a few years ago when the south was seeking a peaceful separation from the northern government in Khartoum.

"They're bombing people from the air," he said. "There's no food, no water, no security."

Eyes on Sudan met Thursday to talk about the future of South Sudan and plan a conference for September. Winnipeggers from South Sudan drove to Calgary in a blizzard last year to cast a ballot in a referendum on secession from the north. After independence was declared last summer, tensions heated up in the disputed oil-rich border region. The refugees who fled the violence hoped peace would follow.

On Thursday, South Sudan reported a lull in the violence. After a week of aerial bombardments by Sudanese warplanes, there were no reported attacks by the north for two straight days, South Sudan government spokesman Barnaba Marial Benjamin said Thursday.

Sudan to the north is feeling the international pressure and condemnation of its attacks on South Sudan, he said.

The African Union this week told Sudan to stop aerial bombardment of the south after 16 civilians were killed. It said both countries should cease hostilities.

The U.S. and United Nations have condemned the attacks that started after South Sudan said it was withdrawing its invading troops from a disputed oil-rich region the two countries claim.

Atem doesn't want a return to war. He wants the peace agreement the two sides signed upheld and has asked Canada what it's doing about it.

"We continue to monitor the situation closely, both from headquarters and through our missions in both countries," said a response by Foreign Affairs.

"Canada appeals to both sides to exercise restraint and return to the negotiating table for the security and prosperity of both countries and their people."

Atem said South Sudanese people around the globe who voted in last year's referendum for a separate country want the people there to get on with their lives.

"It's a matter of letting people enjoy independence and peace." He said the region has suffered enough already.

"We lost more than 2.5 million lives."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 27, 2012 A8

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