Violence In Sudan

Originally published
New York, 19 Aug 2000 - On a visit to Sudan last month, we witnessed the inspiring but dangerous work of courageous aid workers providing assistance to the civilian victims of war there. Two days after we left, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) compound in Billing in Bahr el Ghazal province and a Red Cross plane at an adjoining airstrip were bombed by the government of Sudan. One IRC employee was hit by shrapnel but, fortunately, was not seriously injured. This was a deliberate attack on civilians, as there were no military targets in the vicinity.
Despite agreements signed by the government of Sudan, humanitarian agencies and rebel groups guaranteeing the safety of aid operations, at least 33 separate bombing incidents involved civilians and aid operations last month.

This week, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan announced that the government of Sudan has pledged to stop such bombings, protect the security of aid workers and civilians and lift its recently imposed ban on aid flights. We welcome this development and hope it holds.

But we also remember that it was only two years ago when Sudan restricted relief flights to Bahr el Ghazal, resulting in a famine that killed an estimated 250,000 people and, according to the United Nations, put another 2.6 million people at risk of starvation.

The international community must act now to prevent a repeat of that action and must insist that the parties to the conflict abide by their agreements to allow unfettered humanitarian access.