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Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 11:38 UK

South Sudan to disarm civilians

Man looking for landmines
Southern Sudan is trying to recover from decades of war

Southern Sudanese authorities have begun a campaign to collect large quantities of weapons held by civilians following decades of civil war.

South Sudan's Minister of Internal Affairs, Paul Mayom, said only a few guns had been handed in voluntarily and new measures were required.

Disarmament had to be backed by the army and take place simultaneously across communities, he said.

Sudan's north-south civil war cost an estimated 1.5 million lives.

After 21 years of conflict, the government signed a peace deal with southern rebels in 2005.

Recent fighting between northern and southern troops in the disputed oil-rich town of Abyei has sparked fears of renewed civil war in Sudan.

A joint north-south force has been deployed there in an effort to defuse tension.

'Comprehensive disarmament'

Attempts to disarm civilians in the past have led to attacks by neighbouring communities who have retained their weapons.

If you don't do it we'll take it by force
Internal Affairs Minister Paul Mayom

"(This) new approach is comprehensive disarmament, by removing all the illegal guns," Reuters news agency quotes Mr Mayom as saying.

"If you don't do it we'll take it by force."

In 2006, it was estimated that 1,600 members of the Lou Nuer ethnic group were killed by their neighbours who had kept their weapons.

Authorities say this time they will give communities warning and then record, collect and store weapons to prevent further bloodshed.

As part of the 2005 deal, nationwide elections are due to take place next year, to be followed in 2011 by a referendum on whether the south should secede.


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