Sudan party official killed, north-south tension

Source: Reuters

KHARTOUM, Aug 17 (Reuters) – Sudan’s main party has called for a speedy investigation into the killing of a woman party official in the semi-autonomous south that highlights rising north-south tension in the run-up to 2010 elections. A senior member of the National Congress Party (NCP), Mohammed al-Mahdi Mandour al-Mahadi, told Reuters on Monday his party had reports that members of a militia linked with the south’s army had killed NCP official Miriam Biringi on Friday. “She was assassinated by them, she was killed by militia from SPLA troops in the area,” Mahadi said. Biringi had just been elected head of the NCP women’s secretariat in the south’s Western Equatoria State, he said. A 2005 north-south peace deal between the NCP and the former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) ended a two decade long war, but tension has remained high and fighting has broken out twice between the former foes. North-south fighting in the oil-rich Abyei region last year over competing claims to the area killed dozens, and more than 50,000 lost their homes when its main town was burnt down. The head of the SPLM southern sector, Anne Itto, denied the SPLM or the south’s army was involved in Biringi’s killing in the town of Yambio and said she was probably killed by thieves. “We have no reason for murder, we are partners with the NCP,” Itto told Reuters. “It does not help at all blaming this thing on the SPLM. These criminals must be caught.” Itto alleged the NCP was already trying to buy votes in the south, now led by the SPLM, ahead of elections due in April. “The NCP are going around with a lot of money and people may have thought that as a chair, she had money,” Itto added. The NCP’s Mahadi told Reuters the men had demanded money from Biringi before killing her and setting fire to her house. An NCP member of the south’s parliament, Caesar Bayo Yolalala, said Biringi’s death had been a big shock and the government of Western Equtoria was investigating it. Mahadi said the NCP was having difficulty in the south. “Political freedom of the NCP and other political forces in the south is hindered by the SPLM, the SPLA (the southern army) and military intelligence,” he said. He said a meeting organised by NCP students on Monday at the university in Juba, the southern capital, had been closed after only half an hour by southern soldiers. (Reporting by Skye Wheeler, additional reporting by Jose Vieira, editing by Tim Pearce; skye.wheeler@gmail.com)

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