Sudan's Christian, Muslim Fighting Continues

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Recent fighting in southern Sudan has some fearing the civil war could be heating up again.

About 2 million people died in 20 years of fighting between the Christian south and Muslim north.

Now, a new outbreak in the town of Abiye threatens to destroy the peace.

United Nations special representative Ashraf Qazi recently toured what remains of the southern sudanese town of Abiye. Fighting erupted here when southern Sudanese troops attempted to seize the town from government forces.

"We have just returned from downtown city center, as it were, of Abyei and it doesn't exist anymore," he said. "It is totally charred, it is totally devastated and it's an absolutely human tragedy and it is something that must never happen again."

More than two decades of fighting between the Islamic government of the north and the predominantly Christian south ended when a peace agreement was signed three years ago.

The hope then was to prevent scenes like this. But many southerners say the Sudanese government has fallen short of delivering on its promises--including a share of the nation's oil wealth.

The Abye region is rich in oil--an estimated $670 million in oil revenue was believed generated here in 2006.

But the south hasn't seen any of that money because the sudanese government rejected an international determination that placed Abyei in the semi-autonomous south.

Now it's become a flashpoint that could cause the civil war to flare up again.

Many southern government leaders come from Abyei and insist the government acknowledge that the town and its oil wells belong to south Sudan.

The UN estimates at least 50,000 southern Sudanese have fled the region and are now internally displace because of the recent fighting.

Many had recently returned to Abyei after living for years in refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and Uganda. Now, they are displaced once again. Their time of peace and calm is replaced by the all too familiar experience of loss, and the fear that the violence may spread.'

*Original broadcast May 30, 2008.

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