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Monday, January 08, 2007

Sudan's North-South Peace Is Fragile, Aid Agencies Warn

Two years after thesigning of a landmark peace agreement to end Sudan's 21-year North-South civil war, five international aid agencies today warned that greater international attention is needed to ensure the peace process does not stall.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in January 2005 between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement(SPLM) formally ended one of Africa's longest and bloodiest conflicts, in which more than 2 million people are estimated to have died. However, while international attention focuses on the crisis in the western region ofDarfur, implementation of the agreement has slipped heavily behind schedule, warned CARE, Christian Aid, the International Rescue Committee(IRC), Oxfam and the International Save the Children Alliance.

"With everyone concentrating on Darfur, the CPA seems to be drifting off the international community's radar screen," says Patty Swahn, the International Rescue Committee's regional director for East and Horn of Africa. "The slow progress in implementing the agreement is extremely worrying; if there isn't active support for the peace process, there is a real risk of renewed fighting."

The possibility of an upsurge in violence was dramatically signaled atthe end of November when fighting broke out in the southern town of Malakal between SPLM troops and forces aligned to the government in Khartoum, causing more than 150 fatalities and over 400 injuries. Insecurity persists in many parts of South Sudan and there is still much work to be done on demobilizing the South's many armed groups.

Another concern is the slow progress in addressing the status of Abyei and the transition areas of Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan.

"The international community needs to understand how fragile thesituation is and to engage actively in supporting the process and holdingthe parties to account," says Gary McGurk, assistant country director for CARE South Sudan.

The agencies also urged donors and policymakers to pay closer attentionto the implementation of the East Sudan Peace Agreement, which was signed in October between the government of Sudan and the Eastern Sudan Front, ending a low-level insurgency that has simmered since the early 1990s, dividing the state of Kassala in two.

"The CPA and the peace agreements in Darfur and in the East cannot be treated as three completely separate processes; they are part of the same dynamic," says Hussein Halane, program director for Save the Children.

Promoting post-conflict recovery and development is vital to stabilizing the volatile situation across the country, especially with hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people nowreturning, or planning to return, to the South. However, as donors transition to longer-term development aid, it is also essential that the immediate humanitarian needs of Sudan's many vulnerable populations continue to be addressed. After more than 20 years of war, people need to feel the "dividends" of peace in order to firmly break the cycle of conflict, the agencies say.

With development aid commitments taking time to reach the intended beneficiaries, every effort must be made to prevent the emergence of a funding gap just when communities are expecting to see the material benefits of peace.

The aid organizations make the following recommendations:

* The international community must engage more actively in monitoring and supporting the implementation of the CPA and the East Sudan Peace Agreement, as well as promoting a peaceful settlement in Darfur.
* Donors must ensure that ordinary Sudanese people benefit rapidly and tangibly from post-conflict aid, making certain that the needs of vulnerable communities in all parts of the country continue to be met as they transition from humanitarian to development funding and from bilateral to multilateral aid mechanisms.
* The Government of National Unity and the Government of South Sudan need to protect their citizens from violence and to implement faithfully the peace agreements that they have signed.

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