Monday, September 30, 2002

The Starving of Sudan

Date: Monday 30 September 2002
Subj: The Starving of Sudan
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty E-mail Conference
From: Elizabeth Kendal, Conference Moderator


On Friday 27 September 02 the Government of Sudan (GoS) suspended all humanitarian flights into Eastern and Western Equatoria regions of war-ravaged Southern Sudan, at least for the next nine days. This is an appalling crime against humanity but it has long been a standard GoS strategy whenever it has desired to weaken, punish or eliminate-en-masse the Southern Sudanese.

This time the GoS is also suspending all security flights, meaning that evacuations will not be able to occur. Humanitarian workers that are able have been forced to flee in haste to avoid becoming trapped. Others are bunkering down. Observers are expecting that a major and bloody GoS offensive is imminent.

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THE STARVING OF SUDAN

The BBC reports, "The Sudanese Government's action will cut off almost the entire south of the country, preventing humanitarian flights from getting in, and also potentially blocking the evacuation of foreign staff from the war zone.

"Martin Dawes, a spokesman for the United Nations umbrella organisation Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), said the UN was extremely concerned and was seeking clarification from the Sudanese government.

"The flight ban applies to two huge regions in the far south. One of them, Eastern Equatoria, is experiencing very heavy fighting at the moment, but the other is peaceful. Aid flights from neighbouring Kenya carrying about 150 tonnes of food a day will be grounded." (Full article see link 1)

CNN elaborates, "The flight ban effectively means no U.N. aid flights can get to any part of southern Sudan. There is no way of flying in from the main base at Lokichoggio, just over the border with Kenya, without passing over the prohibited zone. Martin Dawes (OLS) said an average of 20 OLS flights leave Lokichoggio every day, carrying medicine, food, equipment or staff." (See link 2)

On Thursday 26 September, SPLA (Southern People's Liberation Army) fighters shot down a GoS helicopter gunship just north of Torit. The BBC noted that the GoS was experiencing difficulty recapturing Torit, which is in Eastern Equatoria, and added, "Critics say the Sudanese government uses and abuses the (UN) system as an instrument of war by denying access to certain areas in order to starve both rebels and civilians." (link 1)

"MEASURING THE WORLD'S RESPONSE"

In his mailing of Saturday 28 September 02, Sudan expert Dr. Eric Reeves said, "There is no clear end in sight to this catastrophe deliberately precipitated by the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum as a means of securing military advantage in its ongoing offensive in Eastern Equatoria. We could have no clearer example of the ways in which Khartoum's denial of humanitarian aid and its military tactics are intertwined."

Reeves reminds us of the GoS-induced, war-related famine of February 1998, "in which perhaps 100,000 people died." Reeves says that was, "a signal example of how destructive Khartoum is willing to be in using the denial of humanitarian aid as a potent weapon of mass destruction."

The UN estimates that three million men, women and children are at imminent risk of starvation. Reeves suggests that "Khartoum is every hour taking the measure of the world's response, of action---or inaction---on the part of the UN, the United States---and the other Western democracies."

Reeves laments Khartoum's "ruthlessly accurate assessment of what price it will have to pay for breaking its commitments. So far there appears to be no price, and this augurs very poorly for the regaining of humanitarian access."

- Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) BBC "Khartoum halts aid flights to south" By Andrew Harding.
BBC correspondent in Nairobi, Kenya
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/world/africa/2283833.stm

2) CNN "Sudan suspends aid flights" Friday, 27 September 2002
http://asia.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/africa/09/27/sudan.relief.reut/index.html

AP "OLS: Sudanese government bans all U.N. flights into large part
of southern Sudan for nine days beginning Friday" 26 September 2002
http://www.sudan.net/news/posted/5919.html