Yassir Arman, Secretary General of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement – North (SPLM-N), says the government of Sudan is holding more than a half million people "hostage" in two states along its southern border, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. Arman said people in the two states "have no food, no medicine, they have no shelter" and he blamed the international community for failing to pressure Khartoum to allow aid agencies access to the worst-hit areas.
Arman urged the international community to search for alternative ways to deliver urgently needed aid to villages under government control and the rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army - North (SPLM/A-North).
“There is a need for this issue to be in the front seat, it should not be in the back seat given the present situation and many crises in Sudan. We should remain focused on the issue of humanitarian aid to the Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur,” he said.
Access to humanitarian agencies
Khartoum has been paying little attention to concerns by the international community over the dire humanitarian situation in the two states, maintaining that its government-commissioned survey conducted in February said the situation in South Kordofan was not serious.
The Sudan News Agency (SUNA) and the Sudan Media Center reported earlier this week that Khartoum has agreed to form a joint mechanism to manage coordination between U.N. agencies and the Sudanese Humanitarian Aid Commission. They are working to provide assistance to people affected by the fighting between Sudan’s armed forces and rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army - North (SPLM/A-North).
Food, medicine and shelter
Arman stressed that food, medicine and shelter should be given first priority to save lives in villages where he says thousands of people are surviving on tree leaves and hiding in mountain caves.
“Humanitarian aid should go immediately and now to those people to save their lives before talking about development or any other agenda,’’ he said.
Arman added that scores of people in the Nuba Mountains and in villages in Blue Nile state have died from disease, lack of food and constant attacks by Sudan armed forces and proxy militias fighting alongside government troops. He acknowledged non-governmental organizations are offering assistance in the area, but said the need is overwhelming.
“It is a crisis because people are unable to survive, and they may die and many of them soon because of this policy of mass starvation practiced by Khartoum,” he said.
Cessation of hostilities to save lives
The SPLM-North secretary-general said his group is ready to sign a deal with Sudan and aid agencies to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. He accused the government of showing little commitment to negotiating a deal to provide humanitarian aid to the region.
“In the first place, we need to have an agreement and see what is the requirement to take food. Those are our people, and we can do anything to let the humanitarian aid go to them,” Arman said.
After the rebellion of SPLM-North in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states in September 2011, Khartoum accused Juba of supporting the rebels and decided to close the border and ban trade between Sudan and South Sudan.
Recently Sudan’s Vice President Ali Osman Taha announced his government plans to declare a state of emergency in the area bordering South Sudan to prevent what authorities termed as “the smuggling of food” into the newly independent country.
Khartoum argues that the ban on trade between Sudan and South Sudan will discourage Juba from supporting SPLA North rebels.