ERC CALLS FOR IMPROVED HUMANITARIAN ACCESS IN SOUTHERN SUDAN
In Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, the ERC met the President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, and other government officials. Ms. Amos also met donors and representatives of non-governmental organizations and of the United Nations. Discussions centered on the uncertain security situation and the importance of humanitarian workers having access to people in need of assistance.
The ERC asked for a renewed commitment from authorities in the South to ensure that the delivery of humanitarian assistance is unhampered and free from any political, ethnic or religious consideration. Humanitarian agencies have reported a worrying deterioration in the operating environment in recent months, with 118 incidents of interference with aid work reported this year.
"Harassment of and violence against humanitarian workers is unacceptable and I am concerned for their security," Ms. Amos said.
Although violence in the South has lessened compared to last year, tribal fighting, political violence and repeated attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army have continued to create serious humanitarian impediments to helping people in the south.
In light of the ongoing spontaneous returns as well as the Government of Southern Sudan's accelerated return initiative, Ms. Amos urged the Government to ensure all returns are voluntary and conducted in an orderly way.
"Ensuring that returns take place in a free and principled manner is the responsibility of the Government," Ms. Amos said. "However, humanitarian workers are ready to assist where there is clear humanitarian need, and where the government is not able to provide the required support," she added. With a number of benchmarks of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) still unresolved, tensions between and among parties to the agreement have increased in the lead up to the referendum set for January 2011.
"Time is limited, and the challenges are enormous. No one wants to see a new humanitarian crisis, as a result of unresolved issues," Ms. Amos stressed. "There is no doubt we are approaching a historic moment. It is vital that the humanitarian community is ready to respond to any outcome," she said.
After meetings in Juba, the ERC travelled to Yambio, the state capital of Western Equatoria, to meet government officials and humanitarian aid workers. Tomorrow, she will continue to Ezo to see for herself the situation facing people who have been displaced by the Lord's Resistance Army. She will also travel to Agok, situated at the border with northern Sudan.
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