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Sudanese peace process off the track

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afrol News, 13 June - Concerns are raised by the renewed military activity by the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). While the SPLA has embarked on a new offensive in Southern Sudan, the government states it will resume aerial bombings.

The Sudanese government on Monday announced its intention to resume its controversial air strikes in the south of the country and in the Nuba Mountains. A statement from the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the government would resume bomb attacks to "defend itself in the face of continued aggression" from the SPLA. 

The SPLA, which has been fighting for an autonomy for the southern, non-Muslim part of Sudan for decades, last week launched a major offensive against regions that have been safe for many years, especially in Bahr al-Ghazal. 

The SPLA's successful offensive in Bahr al-Ghazal so far has led to the strategic town of Raga falling into the rebels' hands. The SPLA also claims to have taken control of the whole of the western Bahr al-Ghazal province. According to information from the UN refugee agency UNHCR, the offensive has led to the displacement of an estimated 30,000 civilians in the state. 

The Sudanese government in Khartoum now answered the SPLA offensive by announcing its resumption of aerial bomb attacks, for which it earlier has been strongly criticized. The government however claims it would use air strikes on specific targets in fighting zones. 

On 24 May, Khartoum had announced it would be stopping its bomb attacks in southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains. SPLA spokesman Samson Kwaje however told the UN media IRIN on Tuesday that there had never been a halt to the air strikes. "The announcement [to halt air strikes] was made on 24 May, and on 25 May they bombed Tonj. On 26 May they bombed Awada," he said. "They did not halt the bombings," Kwaje added. 

Concerns are raising that the fragile hopes for a peaceful solution to the old Sudan conflict are once again impossible to reach. The European Union yesterday stated it was "increasingly concerned by the renewed military activity" from both sides of the conflict.

The European Union called on both parties to halt their military activity and especially urged the Sudanese government to "fully honour its commitment to cease aerial bombings." The EU further urged both the government and the SPLA to "immediately stop hostilities in order to create an environment conducive to negotiations and the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected civilian population."

The EU also reiterated its call on all sides to engage in a continuous and sustained negotiation towards a just and lasting political settlement of the conflict in Sudan. It considered it "essential that a comprehensive ceasefire, effectively monitored by observers accepted by both sides, be prompted as a matter of urgency within the context of the ongoing IGAD negotiating process."

Sudanese government planes bombed civilian and humanitarian targets at least 152 times in southern and central Sudan last year, according to the US Committee for Refugees (USCR). An estimated 2 million people have died of causes linked to Sudan's civil war during the past 17 years. Some 4.4 million Sudanese have been forced from their homes - the largest uprooted population in the world.


Sources: Based on EU and UN sources and afrol archives


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