Refugees flee Sudan army build-up: Troop movements may herald offensive to cut supply routes to rebels in the south

AN unprecedented build-up of government forces in southern Sudan may herald a renewed offensive against the two factions of the rebel southern movement and an attempt to cut them off from their supply routes to Uganda and Kenya.

More than 1,000 refugees are fleeing into northern Uganda every day in expectation of the long awaited offensive, according to aid workers, and thousands more are moving inside southern Sudan. About 100,000 Sudanese are already in refugee camps in northern Uganda.

Aid workers have reported train- loads of military hardware travelling south to Wau and a 16-barge military flotilla sailing up the Nile towards Juba. It is thought that the government forces will try to take Nimule, the last important town still held by John Garang's rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), and cut it off from Uganda, its source of fuel and ammunition.

Although the World Food Programme says it has enough food in place in Uganda and Kenya to feed the victims of an all-out war in southern Sudan, there is little likelihood of a government 'victory' resulting in a peaceful settlement in which people would be able to return to their homes. Catastrophe would be followed by a drawn out guerrilla war and widespread insecurity creating a long-term refugee problem. According to the United Nations there are already 1,700,000 people displaced in southern Sudan and some 700,000 are facing famine this year.

In the past two years the government has retaken all the principal towns in the south and restricted the rebels to guerrilla warfare.

The hundreds of thousands living in camps around Nimule have fled from the fighting further north between the two factions of the SPLA. The movement split in August 1991 when the deputy commander, Riek Machar, declared a coup against Mr Garang but failed to unseat him. The rift was primarily over strategy: Mr Machar stands for independence for the south, while Mr Garang seeks more autonomy for the south within a united, secular Sudan. But the split divided the movement along tribal lines and both sides wreaked revenge on each other's homes and cattle, bringing starvation to many areas east of the Nile.

The fighting allowed the Khartoum government to launch its own offensive and win back large tracts of the south. It was also able to regain the support of some in the south who were disillusioned by the self-destruction of the SPLA.

There have been several attempts to reconcile the two factions but the rivalry between the two men gives little ground for hope that they could work together again. Mr Machar has the support of his Nuer people and some leading Dinkas who have fallen out with Mr Garang. He has access to supplies from Kenya but is said to be short of guns and ammunition. Mr Garang has these but appears to be losing support outside his own Dinka group, the Bor Dinka.

Both sides accuse the other of receiving help from the Khartoum government. A recent article in Africa Confidential predicts that Mr Machar will eventually win and says: 'As Garang's vision of a united secular country looks increasingly unlikely to southerners, they find an independent south looking more realistic.'

The question is whether they will bury their differences to defend what remains of strategic importance in their areas. Mr Machar's forces control most of Upper Nile province with the exception of Bor, Mr Garang's home town which is held by the government, and the area around Kongor which is held by Mr Garang's forces. The Garang faction controls most of Equatoria province except for the towns.

(Map omitted)

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star