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Archive for Saturday, September 4, 2004

Sudan crisis not alone, official says

Attention to Darfur leaves millions more Africans suffering

September 4, 2004

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— While the world focuses on the crisis in Darfur, three times as many people have been suffering for many more years in two other conflicts involving the Sudanese government.

And, while money has flowed in to help the 2 million people in Sudan's Darfur region who have been caught in 18 months of civil war, few funds are available for the 6 million Sudanese and Ugandans affected by related conflicts that have lasted more than 18 years.

"The magnitude of these other problems has been lost a bit because of the intensity of Darfur," said Dennis McNamara, the top U.N. official dealing with people displaced within their own country by war.

"You've got to deal comprehensively and even regionally if you want to stabilize these situations," he told a small group of foreign journalists Friday.

McNamara recently returned from a trip to northern Uganda, where more than 1.6 million people have fled their homes because of an 18-year-old civil war between government forces and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

The rebels, operating from bases in the southern region of neighboring Sudan, rarely try to hold territory in Uganda and concentrate their attacks on civilians. The group has abducted more than 30,000 women and children to use as servants, concubines and child soldiers, according to UNICEF.

As a result, more than 90 percent of the population in northern Uganda has taken shelter in 180 refugee camps.

"We're very concerned about (northern Uganda) being neglected. It's been very hard to maintain international attention, and donors haven't funded it adequately," McNamara said.

Only 43 percent of what is needed to meet the minimum humanitarian needs in northern Uganda has been donated, he added.

A wounded Sudanese soldier weeps at a makeshift prison June 11,
2002, in the town of Kapoeta in Southern Sudan after the town fell
to soldiers from the Sudan's People's Liberation Army. A senior
U.N. official said Friday that millions of people in Africa were
suffering while the world focuses on the humanitarian crisis in
Darfur, Sudan.

A wounded Sudanese soldier weeps at a makeshift prison June 11, 2002, in the town of Kapoeta in Southern Sudan after the town fell to soldiers from the Sudan's People's Liberation Army. A senior U.N. official said Friday that millions of people in Africa were suffering while the world focuses on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Ugandan government supported the southern-based Sudan People's Liberation Army in its battle with the Sudanese government in Khartoum. Sudan's government, in return, backed the Lord's Resistance Army, a cult-like group that has little contact with the outside world.

Sudan and Uganda normalized relations in 2001 -- and Ugandan troops have been allowed to operate in some parts of southern Sudan -- but reports persist of senior Sudanese officials protecting Joseph Kony, the Ugandan rebel leader, as recently as last month.

Most observers agree that until Kony, who claims to be the messiah, surrenders, dies or is captured, the war in Uganda will continue.

While diplomats have focused on ending the fighting in Darfur in western Sudan, little is being said about the wars in northern Uganda and southern Sudan, McNamara said.

"We can't be politically selective if we want to have a solution when the causes are inter-linked," he said. "If we stabilize one part, and not the other, the un-stabilized bit may destabilize the stabilized bit."

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