Conflict could overshadow the prevailing peace in Southern Sudan unless there is urgent international action to save the peace agreement that ended one of Africa’s longest and deadliest wars, aid agencies warned on Thursday. The agencies said a lethal cocktail of rising violence, chronic poverty and political tensions has left the peace deal on the brink of collapse. However, in a new report: “Rescuing the Peace in Southern Sudan” ten aid agencies are optimistic that the situation can be salvaged.
“It is not yet too late to avert disaster, but the next 12 months are a crossroads for Africa’s largest country,” said Maya Mailer, Oxfam Policy Advisor and the report co-author. The report says the next 12 months will see a number of potential flashpoints that could inflame violence if not properly prepared for. Last year saw a surge in violence in southern Sudan. This could escalate even further and become one of the biggest emergencies in Africa in 2010 according to Mailer. Sudan will have first multi-party elections in 24 years and a referendum in which southerners will vote on whether to remain united with the north or to secede and become independent.
“After five years of peace, southern Sudan remains one of the poorest regions on earth. We are very worried about children who seem to be increasingly targeted in attacks on villages,” said Francisco Roque, Country Director of Save the Children in South Sudan. The crisis in southern Sudan is escalating at a time when the situation in Darfur, in western Sudan, remains one of the world’s biggest humanitarian emergencies.
The agencies warned that there cannot be sustainable peace in Darfur if the peace between north and south is allowed to fail. In 2009 some 2,500 people were killed and 350,000 fled their homes, a human toll greater than occurred last year in Darfur. A return to conflict would have devastating consequences that extend far beyond southern Sudan, the agencies said. The civil war was responsible for the deaths of 2 million people and forced around 4 million people to flee their homes, many into neighboring countries.
The war destabilized the entire region, fuelling conflicts and suffering across central and eastern Africa. To safeguard civilians at this fragile juncture, the agencies urged the UN Security Council to ensure that protecting civilians becomes a core priority for the UN peacekeeping force, UNMIS.
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