Giving U.S. Food to Sudan Rebels is "Untenable"

Baltimore, Jan. 14, 2000 -- The prospect of the U.S. sending food aid to rebel groups in Sudan is "untenable," Lutheran World Relief and 22 other organizations have told the U.S. administration. If any food aid is sent to support rebel forces in southern Sudan, all food aid would become suspect to the Khartoum government, the agencies said in year-end letters to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and National Security Advisor Samuel Berger.
"The current operations of many humanitarian relief organizations would be jeopardized," the letters said. Last year LWR and Lutheran World Federation delivered 11,000 metric tons of U.S. food aid to 138,000 people in an $11 million relief operation in southern Sudan.

A law passed by Congress in November could prompt aid to the rebels, the groups noted. The policy would also undermine local civilian authority in the troubled South and undercut U.S. credibility as a broker for peace, they said.

The groups call instead for "wise actions that contribute toward a resolution" of the African nation's long-running civil war that has claimed an estimated two million lives since 1984. Signatories include Bread for the World, Church World Service, Mennonite Central Committee, American Friends Service Committee and the Washington offices of United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church USA.

The groups recommended that the U.S. focus its aid on the most vulnerable communities on either side of the conflict, and actively support local peace initiatives.

At a meeting with Secretary Albright last fall, aid officials including LWR President Kathryn Wolford, called on the administration to engage the Khartoum government in a broad search for peace, going well beyond the current focus of U.S. policy toward Sudan.