The World Food Program (WFP) has called for $58 million in funds this year to feed 1.7 million hungry Sudanese civilians, most of whom are in Southern Sudan. "In places where the rains have been ideal for cultivation, insecurity has driven people from their homes and fields. And where the food and health needs are greatest, a combination of insecurity and humanitarian flight denials has sometimes prevented WFP from feeding the people in need," states WFP in a recent release. It notes that Sudanese in the Bahr el Ghazal and Western Upper Nile regions are most in need of food assistance.
Sudanese Government continues to target civilians
A Sudanese government plane bombed a primary school in the town of Kaouda in the Nuba Mountains region of Sudan in early February. 13 students were killed, and many more students and teachers were injured. The Geneva Conventions strictly forbid the targeting of schools, hospitals, and civilians in war situations. The attack came just three weeks after the Sudanese government promised a cease-fire on all war fronts. All those killed were under 14. According to Retuers a day after the attack, a Sudan government spokesman justified the attack saying the school was a "legitimate target."
Congress authorizes food aid to support opposition forces in Sudan
Congress in 1999 authorized sending food aid to opposition groups in Sudan. The US government sent $371 million in assistance to civilians in Sudan from FY 1997-99. It was intended to save lives and provide means for the population to return to self-sufficiency. The expanded authorization would also allow assistance beyond civilian populations and directly to Sudanese opposition groups such as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which includes the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and a number of northern- based parties opposing the government militarily. Many humanitarian aid groups oppose this proposal.
The Clinton Administration has NOT decided to actually begin supplying the authorized food aid. The White House is planning to send special envoy for Sudan Harry Johnston to Khartoum next month to discuss the possibility of reopening the US Embassy there.
US Commission on International Religious Freedon holds hearings on the conflict in Sudan
On February 15th the U.S. Committee for Refugees testified before the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on the conflict in Sudan.
USCR Executive Director Roger Winter told the panel that the U.S. media routinely oversimplifies the conflict. "The press often characterizes the conflict as between northern Muslims and southern Christians. Rather the problem is a government controlled by an extremist and distinctly minority National Islamic Front (NIF) [the current regime governing Sudan] in confrontation with moderate Muslims and most non-Muslims. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the umbrella group for Sudanese opposition groups, includes the Sudan People=C6s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which the media often describes as representing the "Christian and animist south," and many primarily northern and Arab groups that are either explicitly Muslim or secular in terms of their membership. Key NDA components include organizations such as the Beja Congress, representing the Beja people, an almost exclusively Muslim ethnic group that occupies much of the area of Sudan between the Egyptian and Eritrean borders. Another example is the Democratic Unionist Party, one of the traditionally conservative Muslim political groups in Sudan.
Winter cautioned against oversimplification. "Religion is a key factor, even the most symbolic factor, underpinning the conflict. However, in the great diversity of the Sudanese people, the problem is not Islam, but rather the NIF's militant agenda, which is understood by opponents to foster forced conversion."
"Harker Report" documents on civilian abuses by Sudanese Government on behalf of Talisman Energy's Oil Development Project
A special Canadian Foreign Service official, John Harker, was assigned last October to study the impact of Talisman Energy, Inc. on the on-going conflict in Sudan. Talisman Energy is one of the largest oil companies in the world and is headquartered in Canada. He issued his findings February 14th in a report titled Human Security in Sudan: The Report of a Canadian Assessment Mission.
USCR has characterized the report as very useful in some of its findings of fact and very weak in its recommendations. The report clearly documents the role of oil production in displacing southern Sudanese civilians through the Sudanese government's scorched-earth policy to create a security zone around the oil fields. It also documents that the Sudanese military has used Talisman Energy's assets for offensive military purposes. However, Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy reacted weakly to the report with his subsequent egregious decision to not penalize Talisman for its role in Sudan but in fact, to open an embassy in Khartoum to constructively engage the current government.
Many advocates for a just peace in Sudan, including USCR, are promoting a campaign of divestment of Talisman stock in the United States and Canada. About 2.5 million shares of Talisman have been divested, and Talisman's stock has dropped in value. Based on Mr. Axworthy's action, that campaign is expected to grow significantly.
The full report, Human Security in Sudan: The Report of a Canadian Assessment Mission is available athttp://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/foreignp/menu-e.asp
To learn more about USCR, visit our website at: http://www.refugees.org
The U.S. Committee for Refugees is a nonprofit, humanitarian organization that works for the protection and assistance of refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people around the world. Support us todayhttp://www.refugees.org/help/joininfo.htm