Christian Aid in Sudan update Jan 2003

Sudan is the largest country in Africa and is a land of immense geographical and ethnic diversity. Since independence in 1956, it has had only one period free from civil war - between 1972 and 1983 - following a peace agreement. The war is being fought over a complex and changing set of issues, in which control over resources such as oil, plays an increasingly important part.
Since 1983 at least four million people have been forced to move from their homes, and one and a half million people have been killed.

Christian Aid works in north and south Sudan with both Christians and Muslims, focusing on: peace promotion, strengthening community groups and civil society, education, and food security.

News from the programme

There has been some progress towards peace at the Machakos peace talks in Kenya. The Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) have signed a memorandum of understanding outlining their commitment to peace and a ceasefire agreement has been extended until the end of March 2003. Christian Aid partners on the ground are cautiously optimistic about the prospects for lasting peace. However, reports in early January 2003, of ceasefire violations in the oil regions of western Upper Nile highlight the importance of reaching agreement on the control of oil revenues, if lasting peace is to be achieved. It is vital that agreement on power and wealth sharing is reached in the January peace talks. Without this element, just and lasting peace is impossible. Update on Sudan peace campaign.

People living in the oil fields of Sudan are caught up in a deadly battle for control of the oil fields. Some are being killed and others driven from their homes. The Christian Aid report The Scorched Earth - Oil and War in Sudan, published in March 2001, presented evidence of this and other related human rights abuses. Further oil-related attacks in February and March 2002 were documented in the Christian Aid/Dan Church Aid report 'Hiding between the streams - the war on civilians in the oil regions of southern Sudan.'

Although the war continues in many parts of the country, people are working locally for peace. A two-year-old peace accord between the Nuer and the Dinka communities was endorsed in April 2001 by the West Bank Peace Council, set up to monitor the agreement. The Nuer and the Dinka have a long history of conflict. A Christian Aid partner, the New Sudan Council of Churches, helped facilitate the original agreement in Wunlit, a small village in southern Sudan in 1999. Despite an escalation of fighting around the oil fields and the 'scorched earth' tactics of the Government of Sudan, the Wunlit agreement has remained intact and the Dinka have been hospitable to the displaced Nuer.