Ten international aid groups say a 2005 peace deal in Sudan is on the verge of collapse and that the world must act now to prevent another civil war.
The aid agencies, which are mainly based in the UK, France and the United States blame a “lethal cocktail” of rising violence, chronic poverty and political tensions for the crisis.
In a new report Rescuing the Peace in Southern Sudan, the agencies which include Christian Aid, Oxfam International, Save the Children Sudan and World Vision noted that the world had ignored the escalating political tension just one year before oil-rich southern Sudan is due to hold a referendum on independence.
“It is not yet too late to avert disaster, but the next 12 months are a crossroads for Africa’s largest country,” said co-author of the report Maya Mailer, policy advisor for Oxfam.
“Last year saw a surge in violence in Southern Sudan. This could escalate even further and become one of the biggest emergencies in Africa in 2010.”
The peace deal five years ago ended a 22-year civil war that left some 1.5 million people dead. But the region remains one of the world’s poorest.
The agencies also warned that growing frustration over the lack of development in southern Sudan is harming peace efforts.
They called on the international community to mediate between the northern and southern parties before the elections and referendum, to lessen the likelihood of conflict, and to support the government in the South in the provision of security.
The international director of Christian Aid Paul Valentin, warned that a return to conflict would have devastating consequences that extend far beyond Southern Sudan.
“Sustained diplomatic engagement from the international community, including Sudan’s neighbours, is what is needed,” he said. “These helped achieve what many thought was impossible and secure the peace agreement in the first place. Now engagement is needed again to ensure all that effort does not go to waste.”