[Episcopal Public Policy Network] A year ago this month, Sudanese in the south passed a referendum to secede from Sudan – an election that was part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement intended to reduce conflict and provide sustainable peace and security in Sudan. Yet today Sudan and the newly-formed South Sudan are rife with widespread civic violence; ethnic conflict; and dire, deteriorating humanitarian crises.
As the Darfur region continues to be plagued by unremitting violence, civilians in Sudan’s border states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan are experiencing indiscriminate bombings and targeted killings. An estimated 500,000 people have been displaced or otherwise affected and now face increased instability and hunger.
Food security in these two regions deteriorates every day, and experts predict “very high acute malnutrition, excess mortality, and extreme loss of livelihood assets” by March – a humanitarian crisis that would be comparable only to levels of emergency need in Somalia and Ethiopia.
This predicted deterioration into famine can be avoided if obstacles to humanitarian access in the border states are lifted and international aid organizations are adequately resourced to provide aid. In fact, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice recently stated:
“This crisis could be addressed by the Government of the Sudan if it were to allow the United Nations and other relief organizations immediate and unimpeded access to vulnerable civilians across Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.”
Meanwhile, the government of Sudan continues to threaten the safety and religious freedom of Christians in the North. Many have been forced to flee from their homes to South Sudan and those who remain risk isolation, punishment, and attack from religious extremists.
Ethnic tensions and humanitarian crises in South Sudan have increased, as well. Thousands in the Jonglei state have been displaced by inter-ethnic fighting, which escalated at the end of 2011. Many lost their lives, and cycles of ethnic revenge and retaliation have been reignited.
As safety and security continues to unravel and humanitarian crises deteriorate across Sudan and South Sudan, we must stand in solidarity with our close companion dioceses in both countries, with the Episcopal Church of Sudan, and with all those whose lives are in immediate danger.
The United States has played an important role in working for peace in Sudan. But now more than ever, it must continue to support efforts toward comprehensive, holistic resolution of the conflict and crises in Sudan and South Sudan.
As the Episcopal Church Executive Council has resolved, the United States must continue to “work with global partners to ensure complementary commitments, for a level of humanitarian aid commensurate to the devastation and destruction that has occurred in these regions.” We must continue to condemn the violence and denial of humanitarian aid and escalate multilateral pressure and keep the plight of the Sudanese at the forefront of its policy and humanitarian work.