Friday, April 9, 2010

South Sudan: Why is Akobo hungry?

As noted in Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 050 (7 April 2010) entitled, "Sudan on the Brink" , one of the Government of Sudan's (GoS's) favourite weapons of war during the 21 year-long jihad (1983-Jan 2005) was engineered famine.

The present famine in Akobo, Southern Sudan, should be viewed in this light. Not that the GoS has bombed or ravagage Akobo recently, but that the regime in Khartoum is quite content to let the periphery starve, and Southern Sudanese civilians are starving when they shouldn't be.

Here area couple of reports, containing some very disturbing pictures, on the current humanitarian situation in Akobo, Southern Sudan.

Emaciated Children Signal Crisis In Southern Sudan
by The Associated Press AKOBO, Sudan April 8, 2010,

YouTube video report:
Skeletal children sign of crisis in Sudanese town.
Associated Press, 8 April 2010

According to reports, however, Khartoum has not only been exporting food, but boasting to the African Union that it has the capacity to become Africa's breadbasket.

In his 26 August 2009 article entitled, "Khartoum's Strategic Assault on Southern Self-Determination Referendum", Sudan expert Eric Reeves noted that the humanitarian situation in the South was deteriorating rapidly. Reeves quoted Lise Grande, the Deputy Resident Humanitarian Coordinator in Southern Sudan, as saying that South Sudan was facing the "perfect humanitarian storm".

As Reeves explained: "The first rains and crop plantings have failed; more than 200,000 people have been violently displaced; and insecurity makes delivery of food to areas such as Akobo almost impossible except by air.

"And yet the Khartoum regime, nominally the 'government of Sudan,' will not lift a hand to offer assistance, just as it has continuously failed to assist the distressed populations of other marginalized regions of the country. It is far too infrequently remarked that despite its now considerable oil wealth, despite massive foreign investment in and around Khartoum, and despite very significant agricultural export capacity, there is no movement of national wealth or even food assistance from the centre to the desperately needy periphery.

"Indeed, at the very time the international community is struggling to provide food assistance to some six million people throughout Sudan, the regime is engaged in a lucrative agricultural export business and selling large tracts of arable lands to foreign countries. Precisely a year ago, New York Times correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman filed from Ed Damer (north of Khartoum) a remarkable dispatch [entitled Darfur Withers as Sudan Sells Food (9 Aug 2008)] highlighting just how perverse national agricultural policy is under the NIF/NCP regime. Noting that Sudan 'receives a billion pounds of free food from international [aid] donors, [even as it] is growing and selling vast quantities of its own crops to other countries,' Gettleman asks, 'why is a country that exports so many of its own crops receiving more free food than anywhere else in the world. . .'"

Reeves also quoted NIF/NCP President al-Bashir, who boasted to the June 2009 African Union summit in Libya that Sudan, through its agricultural wealth, "is in a position to make a big contribution to achieving the food security in Africa." "We prepared a strategy for agricultural revival for 2008-2011 that is aligned with the goals and principles of comprehensive agricultural development in Africa." (As reported in the Sudan Tribune, 1 July 2009)

As Reeves noted: "Al-Bashir is prepared to share Sudan's agricultural wealth with other African nations, but not with the people of his own country. Again, the unsurpassable callousness of such a policy has not been challenged by the international community that is providing so much food aid to Sudan.

"A regime that exports food while so many of its own citizens lack food and face malnutrition and starvation can survive only through tyranny. Present agricultural policy, which benefits only this regime, is but one of many reasons that the NIF/NCP can never prevail in free and fair elections."