Semi-autonomous south Sudan, wracked by inter-tribal fighting and hunger, will face a worsening humanitarian situation this year, a Norwegian aid agency report said today.
After many delays, Sudan will hold its first multi-party elections in 24 years in April, a key element of a 2005 peace deal that ended more than 20 years of conflict between north and south.
But on Jan. 9, 2011, only months after the polls, the south is due to hold a referendum on independence which most analysts believe will create a new African state.
The Norwegian Refugee Council said the international community must ensure the north-south peace deal is successfully implemented, but must also help strengthen the struggling south Sudan government to avoid more bloodshed if the south becomes independent.
“Displacement and humanitarian needs will continue to increase dramatically in 2010 due to intra-southern conflicts,” the report said.
“Emergency response capacities must be immediately boosted both where intra-southern conflicts are combined with deteriorating food security as well as in areas historically most vulnerable to renewed north-south fighting,” it said.
Progress in implementing the 2005 accord has been slow; the north has been accused of lacking political will to implement its provisions, while the south lacks the capacity to do so.
The lack of agreement on key issues including the long-delayed demarcation of the north-south border and how oil revenues will be shared after the referendum could lead to a renewal of armed conflict, the report said.
The Refugee Council said that as well as trying to help north and south Sudan overcome obstacles to the peace deal, the international community should tackle separate south-south tribal conflict.
“Failing to address intra-south causes of conflict would render a successful CPA (peace deal) process largely meaningless with regard to the current humanitarian situation in the south,” the report said.
Analysts say that as many as 2500 people died last year in fighting in the south between pastoralists of different ethnic groups, whose historical rivalry has been exacerbated by the war that led many of the south’s communities to take up arms.
While some 187 000 people were displaced in 2008, more than 390 000 people fled their homes last year, mostly because of the inter-tribal fighting heightened by food shortages and the political neglect of minority ethnic groups, the report said.
It urged donors to help strengthen the semi-autonomous government of south Sudan, whose inability to resolve conflicts between ethnic groups played a significant role in last year’s fighting.
The NRC said 80 % of the south’s health and education services were provided by international aid agencies, which was unsustainable. The government’s weakness could increase tensions in the unstable region, it added.
“There are concerns that the lack of a common enemy among southern groups could further destabilise south Sudan in a post-referendum/independence future,” it said.
Some 2 million people died and 4 million were displaced by the north-south war, one of Africa’s worst. Peace between the north and south is seen as crucial to peace and economic development in east Africa.