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
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
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

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?