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, Oxfam warned today.
In a new report, Rescuing the Peace in Southern Sudan, Oxfam said a lethal cocktail of rising violence, chronic poverty and political tensions had left the peace deal on the brink of collapse.
The report is being released two days before the fifth anniversary of the signing of the agreement between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.
Oxfam Australia’s Humanitarian Advocacy Coordinator Beth Eggleston said the next 12 months were critical for averting absolute disaster in Africa’s largest country, and the Australian Government should play a bigger role considering its public commitment to increased support for peace-building in Africa.
The report, endorsed by nine other agencies, highlights that in 2009, around 2,500 people were killed and 350,000 fled their homes, a greater death toll than Darfur.
“The rest of the world has largely overlooked this suffering,” Ms Eggleston said. “Communities say that ordinary civilians 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 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, in April, and a referendum in which people in southern Sudan will vote on whether to remain united with the north or to secede and become independent, next January.
“The Rudd Government has been rapidly increasing its diplomatic ties with countries in Africa, and has committed to increase aid to the continent by 40 per cent this year,” Ms Eggleston said.
She said that in line with this commitment, Australia could help safeguard civilians by increasing personnel and funds to the UN peacekeeping force, UNMIS (United Nations Mission in Sudan), as well as inject urgent money into non-government organisations and UN agencies to support emergency preparedness and response work with communities, particularly in remote areas.
“As part of its upcoming deployment of the new Australian Civilian Corps, the government should offer a team to assist the badly under-resourced Government of South Sudan to protect its people and build infrastructure such as schools, health clinics and roads,” she said.
Oxfam says growing frustration over the lack of development in southern Sudan is harming the chance of peace. Less than half the population has access to clean water and maternal mortality rates are among the worst in the world. There is less than 50km 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. About 80 per cent of adults cannot read or write and one in seven children die before their fifth birthday.
The crisis in southern Sudan is escalating at a time when the situation in Darfur, in western Sudan, remains one of the world’s biggest humanitarian emergencies. Ms Eggleston said there could not be sustainable peace in Darfur if the peace between north and south was allowed to fail.
For interviews, contact Kate Thwaites on 0407 515 559 cont’d…
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed on 9 January 2005. It ended a war between northern and southern Sudan that spanned 22 years.
A return to conflict would have devastating consequences that extend far beyond southern Sudan. The civil war was responsible for the deaths of 2 million people and forced around 4 million people to flee their homes, most into neighbouring countries. The war destabilised the entire region, fuelling conflicts and suffering across central and eastern Africa.
Since 2006 more than 20,000 Sudanese refugees have resettled in Australia under the Humanitarian Resettlement Program.
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.
download here Rescuing the Peace in Southern Sudan