|Tens of thousands have fled the fighting between government troops and rebels in Southern Kordofan [EPA]|
Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, has announced a two-week unilateral ceasefire within the country’s main oil-producing state of Southern Kordofan.
This announcement on Tuesday came in the wake of weeks of fighting between government troops and rebels.
Activists have accused the government of launching air strikes and attacks specifically targeting the state’s ethnic Nuba group, in an attempt to diminish the opposition following the independence of South Sudan.
Southern Kordofan holds most of Sudan’s remaining known oil reserves, after the country’s south seceded last month, taking its oilfields with it.
Bashir made an unannounced visit to the state on Tuesday, his first since the fighting broke out between Sudan’s army and armed groups in early June.
“The government is committed to peace in Southern Kordofan,” Bashir said in a speech broadcast on state radio, adding that following the two-week ceasefire, “the situation will be assessed on the ground”.
According to the United Nations, tens of thousands have been fleeing the violence. The UN has called for an investigation into reports of human rights abuses in the territory.
Sudan’s government has dismissed these accusations, and in turn has accused local armed groups, many of whom fought alongside the south during decades of civil war with the Khartoum government, of launching a rebellion to try and control the territory.
Bashir said foreign organisations would not be allowed into the state and that any aid would be delivered only through the Sudanese Red Crescent organisation.
Opposition politicians said the fighting first flared after Sudan’s army tried to disarm armed groups in Southern Kordofan. Political tensions were high after Bashir’s National Congress Party won a state governorship election, in a vote that some opposition groups said was rigged.