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Sudanese and South Sudanese Presidents Hold Talks to Ease Tensions in Abyei Region

South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has held talks with his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir in an attempt to defuse tensions following deadly clashes in Abyei, a region where both sides have claimed ownership, officials said Monday.

This follows appeals by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and the African Union for calm in the flashpoint area following the killing of a tribal chief and a UN peacekeeper on Saturday.

“Our president has been in direct contact with president Bashir… they exchanged ideas about this sad incident,” South Sudan’s Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told reporters.

Both Juba and Khartoum have condemned the fighting which killed Kual Deng Majok, the Abyei leader of the Dinka Ngok, a people viewed as loyal to South Sudan.

Majok and an Ethiopian peacekeeper were shot dead in an attack by gunmen from the Misseriya, a pastoralist people who graze their cattle in Abyei and are seen as supporters of Khartoum.

Several Misseriya are also reported to have been killed, as well as a Dinka colleague of Majok. Two peacekeepers were also wounded.

Ban urged both sides to “avoid any escalation of this unfortunate event,” while the AU, which has been mediating between Khartoum and Juba on Abyei, said they must “ensure that the current situation does not spiral out of control.”

Although Sudan and South Sudan have been taking steps since March to normalise their relations in other areas following months of intermittent clashes along their undemarcated frontier, Abyei’s status has not been resolved.

Abyei’s status was the most sensitive issue left unsettled when South Sudan split from Sudan in 2011. A referendum to determine Abyei’s future was stalled and Sudanese troops shortly after took over the region by force.

Provocative killings
Negotiations on the region’s future are ongoing, but Benjamin said he believed the killings were “done by Misseriya militia… to frustrate the Abyei referendum.”

Khartoum has however affirmed its committment “to all the agreements that have been signed” with Juba, adding that they hope the killings will not impact a recent warming of relations between the former civil war foes.

At least 4 000 Ethiopian troops with the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) are based in the district.

South Sudan “has requested UNISFA search for the perpetrators to bring them to justice”, Benjamin added, calling Saturday’s attack “provocative killings”.

“Sudan’s government should also take steps to find out who committed this crime,” he added.
Majok’s death is the most serious incident since Sudanese troops withdrew in May last year to end a year-long occupation that forced more than 100 000 people to flee Abyei towards South Sudan.

Although Sudan and South Sudan have been implementing timetables for restoring relations between the two countries set out in March, they have not met deadlines to set up Abyei’s administrative structure, including a police service — also agreed upon in March.


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Haile Gebrselassie’s running career may be over

(Runner’s World) — While Sunday’s Fukuoka Marathon gave us a new champion, Joseph Gitau of Kenya, whose 2:06:58 was a personal best by nearly 15 minutes, and added two more names, Mo Trafeh and Ryan Vail, to the list of sub-2:12 Americans, the race may best be remembered for adding to the mountain of evidence that Haile Gebrselassie’s status as a threat in major international marathons has ended.

Gitau is a product of the Japanese corporate running system, representing a company called JFE Steel. His roots in Japan are deep; he attended high school in Hiroshima. As the IAAF reports, he ran from 30-K to 35-K in 14:54 and from 35K- to 40-K in 14:41 to seal his victory over Hiroyuki Horibata of Japan, who clocked 2:08:24. Henryk Szost of Poland was third in 2:08:42.

Gebrselassie is a former world record holder with a best of 2:03:59 but his most recent marathon performance was a fourth-place 2:08:47 in February. As David Monti of Race Results Weekly pointed out yesterday, Gebrselassie’s last five marathons have consisted of dropping out three times, that 2:08 earlier this year and one withdrawal before race day.

Officially, the Ethiopian turns 40 in April, though there are suspicions he’s considerably older. He made a pre-race statement that he was capable of 2:05 or 2:06 in Fukuoka if the conditions were right, but perhaps it was his condition that wasn’t. He dropped out after 32-K on Sunday, and later tweeted, “I could not lift my left leg properly anymore and I had to stop. My training went well and I had no indication of this.” He added, “I felt good and easy during the race; the pace was fine. After 25-K, my left upper leg started slowly to cramp up.” Gebrselassie assured his followers, “I will check out the problem and run another marathon, since I feel in good shape.” Perhaps, but the dropouts and disappointments are coming in bunches now.

Martin Mathathi, a Kenyan with a 58:56 half-marathon best, hoped to run under 2:07 and contend for the Fukuoka crown in his marathon debut, but he was out of the race after 38-K, reportedly in part because his final long training run had not gone well and had caused a crisis of confidence.

Mo Trafeh, who ran with the leaders early at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in January before dropping out, took seventh in Fukuoka in 2:11:41, with Ryan Vail just behind in 2:11:45. Vail then tweeted that he was “sore and tired, but headed to Vietnam and Cambodia for a much needed break.”

Three athletes coached in Oregon by Jerry Schumacher, all of whom had planned to do the November 4 New York City Marathon before its cancellation, made it to Fukuoka. Tim Nelson was 12th in 2:14:09, but his teammates Simon Bairu and Brent Vaughn did not finish. Vaughn had also dropped out of the Olympic Trials Marathon in his debut at the distance.


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Former Darfur rebel group accuses Sudan of attacking its troops

KHARTOUM (AFP) — The only rebel group to have signed a peace deal with the Sudanese government on Thursday accused the army of a deadly attack which authorities then lied about.

“Yesterday, Liberation and Justice Movement forces came under attack from SAF (Sudanese Armed Forces) near El Fasher,” the rebels’ chief Eltigani Seisi said in a statement to reporters.

“Two of our troops were martyred and three were detained.”

International peacekeepers in Darfur had warned in October that implementation of the 2011 peace deal between LJM and the government had hit a deadlock, though this is the first clash reported this year between the SAF and LJM.

Seisi said two LJM vehicles had been located near El Fasher, the North Darfur state capital, for 10 days “and SAF knew very well about that”. But the vehicles still came under attack, he said.

Official media then announced the army had killed two members of the Revolutionary Front, an alliance of Sudanese rebels including Darfur’s main insurgents who refused to sign the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.

State news agency SUNA said the army captured two Revolutionary Front vehicles and rockets being prepared for an attack against El Fasher.

“It’s a lie. The troops attacked yesterday are LJM troops,” said Seisi, who is also effectively Darfur’s top official.

He heads the Darfur Regional Authority set up as a type of government body to implement the Doha deal which is backed by the African Union, United Nations and Arab League.

Seisi said LJM has been in contact with officials to stop the false information, and it has asked the African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) to investigate the incident.

“If this media campaign doesn’t stop it will disturb confidence in the Doha declaration,” he said.
The Sudanese government and UNAMID have repeatedly called for non-signatory rebels to join the Doha deal.

Despite the absence of those groups, there was optimism last December that the agreement with LJM — an alliance of rebel splinter factions — would be fully implemented, UNAMID’s acting head Aichatou Mindaoudou said in October.

“Today, we have to note that the process has been very slow” she said at a meeting of a commission tasked with overseeing arms control through the safe storage of the LJM’s heavy weapons, the integration of its fighters into Sudan’s armed forces, and other measures under a ceasefire.

Mindaoudou said “no progress” had been made towards these goals because the first step, the verification of the LJM’s forces and strength, had been “inconclusive”.

That impasse would hinder establishment of a secure environment, which is a prerequisite for voluntary return of Darfur’s more than one million displaced, and for effective reconstruction, she said.

At the October meeting both LJM and the government said they were committed to implementing the security arrangements.

The commission said verification must be finished by November 15, but that deadline was not met.
Ethnic rebels began their uprising against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government in 2003.

Though violence is down from its peak, various overlapping conflicts continue in the form of banditry, inter-Arab and tribal disputes as well as government-rebel clashes in the far-west region.


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