Letter: Civilians face death in southern Sudan

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is right that the desperate conflict in former Yugoslavia is not eclipsing the needs of the much poorer victims of drought and war in Somalia. The UN should receive the full support of its members in taking all necessary steps to ensure that the relief aid already granted to Somalia reaches the people who need it.

Yet Somalia is not the only peak on Africa's map of suffering, nor is Mogadishu the closest parallel with Sarajevo. If the depth of callousness is to place a city's civilian population under siege conditions, the citizens of Juba in southern Sudan have suffered longest. Nine years of civil war, including four years under siege, have left in the balance the fate of a quarter of a million people remaining in that city.

Since the middle of July intensified fighting between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Army has suspended the churches' and the UN's intermittent relief flights on which the people of Juba depend for survival. Those relying on food aid, among them many displaced from elsewhere in southern Sudan, now have nothing left. The press corps is absent from Juba; if journalists were there, the kind of pictures we have seen from Mogadishu would be only a matter of time.

The people of Sudan are tired of war. There were signs that both warring parties were ready to respond to that war-weariness in the peace talks at Abuja, Nigeria, adjourned in June. But it is not enough for these talks to be urgently reconvened. Unless the two sides can agree in the meantime to reopen relief corridors by air or land, the talks will be acted out against a background of many needless and probably unreported civilian deaths.

Yours faithfully,


Deputy Director

Christian Aid

London, SE1

11 August