"The recent events in Sudan are alarming. The crackdown on protesters in Khartoum earlier this week and the brief detention of senior members of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and leaders in other opposition parties speaks to a growing unrest in Sudanese politics. These actions represent a serious deterioration of the political and security situation in the country at a pivotal moment. With the situation likely to worsen in 2010, Refugees International urges the Obama Administration to take immediate action to prepare for potential conflict and resulting large-scale displacement in south Sudan.
"The recent events highlight a worrying trend of heightened tension that is likely to continue, as the country prepares for national elections in April, the first in 24 years, and a referendum on southern independence in early 2011. The continued failure to support the rebuilding of south Sudan or implement key provisions of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) will exacerbate these tensions and make violence more likely. Displaced people who have returned home are desperate for community-level support for skills training, schools, and medical care. Rapid investment in rural areas remains essential. The Obama administration must redouble its efforts to support the implementation of the CPA, one of the Administration's three stated strategic priorities for Sudan.
"The 2.2 million displaced people who have already returned home in the south, as well as southerners displaced in the north, risk even further disruption to their lives by being forced from their homes yet again if conditions worsen.
"Refugees International calls on the U.S., the United Nations and other international partners active in Sudan to develop contingency plans for humanitarian assistance and the protection of civilians in case the security situation deteriorates further over the course of 2010, as well as during the referendum and its aftermath. For example, support for south Sudanese police forces would improve their ability to protect civilians as additional violence breaks out. The U.S. should also ensure that funding and resources can be made available quickly to assist people uprooted by new violence. The U.S. should also encourage neighboring countries, especially Kenya and Uganda, to develop contingency plans for possible refugee outflows and be prepared to support their implementation and these plans.
"RI also calls on the members of the UN Security Council and the UN mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to ensure that peacekeepers, local community leaders and other protection actors work with utmost urgency to develop community protection plans in order to minimize the humanitarian fallout in the case of violent outbreaks.
"Taking action now is critical to averting the disastrous consequences of a new war in the next two years and building some modicum of stability in this volatile country."
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people and promotes solutions to displacement crises. For more information, visit http://www.refugeesinternational.org.
Contact: Vanessa Parra; +1-202-828-0110