Africa Urged to Do More to Promote Sudanese Peace Effort

By | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - Southern Sudanese women are calling on governments in Africa to follow the U.S. lead and do more to promote the Sudanese peace effort.

Specifically, they want lawmakers in those countries to pass laws that, like U.S. legislation, will offer rewards for compliance with the peace agreement, and consequences for not doing so.

Humanitarian groups are also calling for similar measures, saying they were needed to help restore stability and spur development in the country's war-ravaged south.

Women aligned with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) praised U.S. efforts in reaching an agreement ending the bitter civil war between the Muslim government and the mainly Christian and animist south.

African nations, by contrast, needed to do much more.

SPLA women's representative Anguil de Chut Deng said here that, for all the years the southern Sudanese people were suffering, no African state, nor the African Union, had condemned atrocities perpetrated by the Islamist regime in Khartoum.

"When the U.S. came in to assist us, the Africans are now claim[ing] that America is interested in our oil," Deng said in an interview.

"It is time the African nations commit themselves to monitoring the peace agreement. The world needs to guarantee peace in Sudan," Deng added.

The U.S.-sponsored peace talks, hosted by Kenya, are in their final leg, and there are high hopes that a final peace agreement will be signed before the end of the month.

Last week, an SPLA delegation made an unprecedented visit to Khartoum for consultations with President Omar Hassan Ahmed el-Bashir's government, raising hopes that a peaceful settlement was indeed within grasp.

The 20-year old conflict, and accompanying famine, has claimed the lives of at least two million people. Many more have been displaced.

President Bush this week threw his personal weight behind the peace effort, speaking by phone to Bashir and SPLA leader John Garang, and inviting them to Washington for the final signing of a comprehensive agreement.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Washington that the U.S. was being "very active diplomatically" in supporting the peace talks.

Charles Snyder, the acting assistant secretary for Africa, was dispatched to Kenya last week to work with the negotiating teams.

Paul Townsend, country director of Catholic Relief Services for Sudan, told it was very important for African nations to work together, through the African Union, to guarantee peace in the south.

Greater participation of African nations in the process "will help find an indigenous solution to an indigenous problem," Townsend said.

Townsend said the humanitarian situation in the south remained "difficult," with food shortages.

A ceasefire here had not translated into better living standards for the people, Townsend said.

Catholic priest Father Boffelli Pasquale of the Lelobird diocese in southern Sudan said the U.S. and other governments needed to apply more pressure on Khartoum to sign, and then implement, the deed.

The Sudanese government had proved to be "untrustworthy" and needed to be closely watched, Pasquale said in a phone interview.

Pasquale also called for more African involvement, saying countries on the continent had "a moral duty to drive the peace process" ahead.

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