Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sudan: No peace

Millions of Sudanese still live in fear of violence, a year after the peace deal ended 21 years of war between north and south.

Many Sudanese have little to celebrate due to continual conflict in the western province of Darfur and insecurity in the south and east.

The recent death of long-time southern rebel leader John Garang just three weeks after he had been sworn in as Sudan's vice-president is particularly troublesome. In short, the peace dividend has not been delivered. Reconstruction is impossible when in reality there was nothing there to start with.

Rebecca Dale from the International Rescue Committee said that some of those who have returned to their homes in south Sudan have since returned to the capital, Khartoum, because they found so little infrastructure. She said that 25% of children in the south die before they reach the age of five, there are very few schools and there is only one doctor for every 100,000 people.

The disputes in Sudan were far more complex than realized by the international negotiator who pushed north and south to reach a deal, ignoring the problems in Darfur. The only major study of deaths in Darfur so far has been conducted by the UN's World Health organization which estimated that as many as 70,000 people had died of disease and malnutrition caused by the conflict between March and October 2004. This ignores the the deaths due to violence. Amnesty International's best estimate for how many may have died from violence since the conflict began - which took account of attacks on hundreds of villages - is 50,000. Since the beginning of 2005, US academic Eric Reeves estimates the figure at 340,000. UK-based Dr Jan Coebergh, who once worked in Darfur, has examined a range of aid agency health surveys. He puts the figures slightly lower at about 300,000. The UN says that more than two million of the estimated six million population have fled their homes, but the organization is reluctant to suggest how many might have died in total.

International differences on Darfur have also contributed to a non-number as well as inaction. The UN Security Council remains unable to agree on how to sanction the government or the perpetrators of abuses from all sides. The small African Union force meant to monitor a ceasefire is ineffective and under strength.

The important thing is that the deaths stop. When President Bush meets with UN Secretary General Annan an opportunity for discussion on Sudan and on Darfur, in particular, is possible. Moreover, though Iraq and Iran will lead the discussion, the important thing is that the deaths stop. The question that remains is how many more will die while the international community argues?

No comments: