WASHINGTON, Mar 15, 2012 (IPS) - Less than a year since South Sudan's
independence, thousands of people in the region continue to face the stark
realities of secession.
As an impending famine and daily violence grow in severity, the governments
in Juba and Khartoum remain mired in disputes over borders and oil revenues.
Among the areas most affected by the latest violence and food shortages are
states on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Thousands of civilians
stranded in the Nuba Mountains of Southern Kordofan, a Sudanese province
with a population close to 1.1 million, now face starvation - largely a
result of the Sudanese government's move to restrict international
humanitarian relief agencies from accessing the most troubled areas.
The recent fighting has destroyed large tracks of farmland and crops
essential for isolated populations in Sudan's Blue Nile State and Southern
Kordofan. According to U.S. officials, 250,000 people in the region are
threatened by starvation.
"A vast humanitarian catastrophe is already underway, and there is no clear
plan for either securing humanitarian corridors to these distressed
populations in northern Sudan or for an appropriate pre- positioning of the
food and non-food items that are critical," Dr. Eric Reeves, an expert on
Sudan, told IPS.
"Months ago the Famine Early Warning System Network warned that without
humanitarian assistance, these populations would be facing 'near-famine
conditions' in March 2012. Khartoum continues to block international
humanitarian assistance, and we are in mid-March. The implications of
allowing this to continue are unspeakable, and yet the Obama administration
seems paralyzed," Reeves added.
"Action must be taken very quickly," Princeton Lyman, U.S. special envoy for
Sudan and South Sudan, said during a Senate hearing on Wednesday. "We have a
very narrow window before the rain comes and makes the roads impassible (for
Earlier this week, over 200 people in South Sudan's province of Jonglei were
killed in tribal clashes that have accompanied months of sustained violence,
including attacks by Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) on civilian refugee camps
in South Sudan and in neighboring Ethiopia.
Close to 100,000 people have been displaced from Jonglei because of fighting
between the south's SPLM, the north's SAF, and other tribal groups.
Government officials in Khartoum have denied allegations of war crimes by
claiming that the attacks are attributable to South Sudanese rebels and
U.N. officials estimate that the near decade of conflict, including mass
atrocities committed in Darfur, has left nearly 300,000 dead, and displaced
over two million people.
Earlier this year, South Sudan signed an agreement with Ethiopia and
Djibouti that will encourage partnerships focusing on economic and
U.S. officials have strongly condemned the most recent spate of violence,
but some critics of the administration's policy argue that little progress
has been made on the fundamental disagreements between the two nations.
"Going back to March 2009, when President (Barack) Obama appointed retired
Air Force General Scott Gration as special envoy to Sudan, U.S. Sudan policy
has been a shambles and deeply destructive of the chances for peace," Dr.
Reeves told IPS.
"To be sure, the Bush administration had let implementation of the (2005)
Comprehensive Peace Agreement slide off its agenda. But the Obama people -
including Gration, Clinton, Senator John Kerry, and presently Princeton
Lyman - have compounded error with error, misjudgment with misjudgment.
"The ways are myriad, but they have consistently entailed a failure to
understand the nature and ambitions of the National Islamic Front/National
Congress Party regime in Khartoum. The U.S. will bear heavy responsibility
for the outbreak of all-out war that seems increasingly inevitable." Reeves
The U.S. has reinstated trade sanctions on Sudan, but one component of the
administration's budget request for fiscal year 2013 is 250 million dollars
in Sudanese debt forgiveness.
Senior U.S. officials continue to review the sanctions - a scenario made
possible after the Obama administration decided to "de-couple" international
justice and reconciliation efforts in response to the genocide in Darfur
from negotiations over disputed territory.
Amb. Lyman and Nancy Lindborg, an assistant administrator at USAID,
emphasised in congressional testimony on Wednesday that humanitarian workers
were prepared for immediate relief operations if access were to be granted,
and that diplomatic negotiations over a political settlement are continuing
"If the government has opened up the area to international access, what
we're hoping is, that will lead not only to a quieting of the hostilities,
but hopefully the atmosphere that political talks can start. That will
change the atmosphere," Lyman said Wednesday.
"There is a growing realisation in Khartoum that there isn't a military
solution to a problem and that simply going on with the fighting and facing
the opprobrium of a humanitarian disaster is not in their interest.I hoping
that we will get better news in the days ahead." Lymon added.
Congressman Frank Wolf, having recently visited a refugee camp in South
Sudan, introduced legislation last week that will focus on the humanitarian
crisis there. A similar resolution was introduced in the Senate on
"We need to provide the Obama administration with all the tools and all the
authority it needs to seek a comprehensive peace in Sudan, end human rights
violations, and bring those guilty of crimes against humanity to justice,"
Congressman Jim McGovern, a co-sponsor of the bill, said last week.
Both congressmen stated the bill would be a fitting dedication to the life
of Congressman Thomas Payne, a fierce advocate for human rights and genocide
prevention in the region, who died last week.
U.S. officials announced this week that a planned conference focusing on
international investment opportunities in Sudan has been postponed because
of President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir's continued intransigence over
humanitarian relief and ongoing violence.
While the African Union (AU) announced Wednesday that the governments of
Sudan and South Sudan have agreed to a "framework" for settling disputes
over citizenship, the most divisive issues remain unresolved.
President al-Bashir, an indicted war criminal, is scheduled to travel to
South Sudan for the first time since its independence for additional
negotiations over disputed borders and oil fees.
As negotiations carry on, Lyman noted that Khartoum's resistance to a
settlement has been indicative of the atmosphere of mistrust between Sudan,
South Sudan and the international community.
"There's a deep suspicion of the motives of the international community and
they see this as 'we're not going to go down that path again, we're going to
keep our country together, even if we have to do it militarily.' So it's
taken a lot of time and effort to say look, you're looking at it wrong way,
and you're looking at it in a way that will hurt your own interests," Lyman
said on Wednesday.
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Received on Thu Mar 15 2012 - 17:55:11 EDT