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Violence Erupts in Sudan as National Split Nears

June 28, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight, new violence in the African nation of Sudan, just as South Sudan heads for independence.

Margaret Warner has that story.

MARGARET WARNER: In less than two weeks, South Sudan is due to become the world’s newest nation, formally seceding from Sudan, Africa’s largest country.

The rival regions signed a peace agreement in 2005, ending a long civil war that killed two million people. Then, last January, predominantly Christian and animist South Sudan voted to break away from the mainly Arab Muslim North.

But since then, violence has erupted north of the new border. In May, Sudan’s Khartoum government sent forces into Abyei, an area claimed by both sides. And this month, in the state of Southern Kordofan, thousands of northern troops moved into the Nuba Mountains to attack tribesmen.

More than 70,000 civilians have fled the region to escape the fighting. The U.N.’s deputy high commissioner for human rights spoke Monday in Khartoum, after traveling through Sudan.

KYUNG-WHA KANG, United Nations deputy high commissioner for human rights: The utter devastation I saw in Abyei was a chilling warning of what might become of the border area. Some tukuls, the simple thatch-roof houses, were still smoldering during my brief visit there, and looters still roamed among the ruins in the presence of the Sudanese armed forces. All the civilians are gone.

MARGARET WARNER: When they will be able to return will be a tough call, given allegations of wanton killings there committed by the troops of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. He is already under international indictment for alleged war crimes in Darfur.

Yesterday, the U.N. Security Council voted to send 4,200 Ethiopian peacekeepers to Abyei after both sides agreed to remove their troops. Sudan’s U.N. envoy insisted the peacekeeping resolution can only set the stage for a longer-lasting agreement.

DAFFA-ALLA ELHAG ALI OSMAN, permanent representative of Sudan to the United Nations: The Ethiopian troops’ presence there is interim. It’s temporary. It’s not final or permanent. And this resolution is not a substitute to the final settlement, which we hope people will work very soon.

MARGARET WARNER: Any settlement also has to divide the oil revenues in Africa’s third largest oil producer. Most of that resource lies in newly minted South Sudan, while the North has most of the country’s pipelines and refining capacity.