Violence Up as Sudanese Elections Approach

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JUBA, Sudan - Violence is increasing in southern Sudan as April elections approach, according to a U.N. official living there.

U.N. Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Lise Grande, who lives in Juba, the capital city of southern Sudan and the Sudanese state of Central Equatoria, said the region is experiencing more violent clashes than in the previous year.

"What we saw last year was a very sharp rise in inter-tribal violence," Grande said. "There were about 100-102 separate tribal conflicts last year and as a result of that, almost 400,000 people who were newly displaced. This year alone, since the first of January, we have had more than 70 incidents, just in the first two-and-a-half months of this year," he said.

Since the beginning of the year, 450 people have been killed and nearly 60,000 displaced, according to Grande. He said some of the recent clashes have been over access to water for livestock, mainly cattle.

Election officials working in southern Sudan said violence is not the only factor that could complicate the upcoming elections. The rainy season, which is just beginning, will make many of the roads in remote areas impassable.

In remarks at a seminar in Brussels on Tuesday, ICC (International Criminal Court) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the year-old arrest warrant issued against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir should be enforced.

Al-Bashir, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture, in Darfur, is threatening to expel international election monitors.

The European Union has agreed to provide 130 to monitor the country's first multi-party vote in nearly two decades. But Moreno-Campo said that their task would be no less daunting than in Hitler's Germany.

"It's like monitoring a Hitler election. It's a huge challenge," the ICC prosecutor said.

Opposition parties have called for postponing April's elections until democratic reforms can be passed.

Elections in Sudan came as part of a 2005 peace agreement to end the 20-year civil war in which some 2 million Sudanese were killed. The agreement calls for referendum in 2011 to form a separate state in the south, a seemingly popular idea among the region's residents.

For an analysis of the Sudanese elections by University of Juba Sudan assistant professor Dr. John Akec, posted in the Sudan Tribune, click here.

--- and Reuters contributed to this report.

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