BY JOHN PONTIFEX
SUDAN’S Catholic bishops have issued a formal warning about the threat of a return to full-scale civil war.
In an official statement they appealed for urgent food and medicine, saying that thousands of people were being terrorised by aerial bombardment.
Referring to spreading violence in different regions in central and eastern Sudan, and newly created South Sudan, the bishops urged the international community to intervene to stop the fighting.
Their communiqué, entitled “The Church God wants us to be”, described conflict in the Blue Nile State, South Kordofan and Eastern Equatoria, as well as ongoing violence in Darfur.
The bishops – both of South Sudan and Sudan – went on to call for immediate action, stressing how the conflict in oil-rich Abyei has been “militarised”.
They underlined the problem of violence in Western Equatoria and Western Bahr el Ghazal caused by rebel group the Lords Resistance Army (LRA).
In their statement, a copy of which was sent to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the bishops said that the two Sudans may be on course for a return to large-scale conflict.
The bishops’statement prompts fears of violence similar to Sudan’s 1983-2005 civil war in which 2.5 million people died and five million were displaced.
The document said: “We are deeply troubled by the ongoing violence in our two nations [Sudan and South Sudan].
“War has broken out in the Nuba Mountains, South Kordofan State and Blue Nile State...
“We have constantly warned of the danger of a return to hostilities if the legitimate aspirations of the people of those areas were not met.
“Civilians are being terrorised by indiscriminate aerial bombardment.” In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Adwok Kur of Khartoum said: “If you consider the many conflicts in Sudan and South Sudan, they will almost certainly create a situation in which one side or the other will say: ‘Enough is enough. We need to do whatever is necessary to clear away the problem.’ “The government of Sudan may say that if there are [hostile] soldiers on their border, we will need to react; the government of South Sudan may say that it has to hunt down the militia including going into the territory of Sudan. This, of course, will provoke a reaction from Sudan. One or other of these things is quite likely to happen.” In their statement the bishops urged the international community – especially theAfrican Union – to help to resolve the conflicts, adhering to the terms of the January 9 2005 Comprehensive PeaceAgreement that formally ended the civil war.
The bishops’statement includes a plea for aid amid reports that hundreds of thousands of people have been internally displaced by the conflict on the border between the two Sudans.
Unicef reports that 2.7 million have been displaced by the conflict in Darfur.
The bishops’communiqué said: “There is an urgent need to open humanitarian corridors to allow food and medicines to reach those in need.” It comes after humanitarian relief operations reported that they were more than 200,000 displaced people from South Kordofan and Blue Nile State, both on the contentious border between Sudan and South Sudan. In their statement the bishops singled out trauma healing as the “immediate priority” for South Sudan’s new government, adding that reconciliation within society depended on education, law and order and political maturity.
Stating that “corruption is unacceptable”, the bishops called on the governments of both Sudans to be transparent and democratic.
The statement was issued after a 10-day plenary assembly of the bishops at which the prelates decided to retain one bishops’ conference despite the creation of South Sudan.