World needs to act now to prevent new Sudan war, ten aid agencies warn

Published on Reuters, Source: OXFAM GB – UK, 07 Jan 2010.

Major conflict could return to southern Sudan unless there is urgent international action to save the peace agreement that ended one of Africa’s longest and deadliest wars, ten aid agencies warned today.

In a new report “Rescuing the Peace in Southern Sudan” – released on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the signing of the peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement – the agencies said a lethal cocktail of rising violence, chronic poverty and political tensions has left the peace deal on the brink of collapse. 

“It is not yet too late to avert disaster, but the next 12 months are a crossroads for Africa’s largest country. Last year saw a surge in violence in southern Sudan. This could escalate even further and become one of the biggest emergencies in Africa in 2010,” said co-author of the report Maya Mailer, Policy Advisor for Oxfam.

In 2009 some 2,500 people were killed and 350,000 fled their homes, a human toll greater than occurred last year in Darfur. The rest of the world has largely overlooked this suffering according to the agencies. Communities say that women and children have increasingly been targeted in attacks on villages and the Government of Southern Sudan and international peacekeepers have not been able to protect them.

The report says the next 12 months will see a number of potential flashpoints that could inflame violence if not properly prepared for. These include Sudan’s first multi-party elections in 24 years and a referendum in which southerners will vote on whether to remain united with the north or to secede and become independent.

To safeguard civilians at this fragile juncture, the agencies urged the UN Security Council to ensure that protecting civilians becomes a core priority for the UN peacekeeping force, UNMIS. The agencies also called on the international community to help mediate between the northern and southern parties before the elections and referendum, to reduce the likelihood of conflict, and to support the government in the south to provide security.

The agencies also warned that growing frustration over the lack of development in southern Sudan is harming the chances of peace. Less than half the population has access to clean water and maternal mortality rates are among the worst in the world. There are fewer than 50kms of tarmac road in the entire region, an area the size of France, and during heavy rains many areas are cut off for months at a time, making the delivery of humanitarian aid almost impossible. Some 80 percent of adults cannot read or write and one in seven children die before their fifth birthday … (full text).

  • (Notes to editors: The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed on 9 January 2005. It ended a war between northern and southern Sudan that cost two million lives.
  • The ten agencies backing the report are: Christian Aid, Cordaid, Handicap International, ICCO, International Rescue Committee, Oxfam International, Save the Children Sudan, Caritas France/ Secours Catholique, TearFund and World Vision).

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