Global Rally for Peace in Sudan Kicks off

Humanitarian groups and wold renowned musicians are calling on the British government and world leaders to prevent Sudan from slipping back into what has been Africa's longest running civil war.

Protesters calling on the British Government intervention to prevent war in Sudan are pictured opposite 10 Downing St. in London, 09 Jan 2010
Protesters calling on the British Government intervention to prevent war in Sudan are pictured opposite 10 Downing St. in London, 09 Jan 2010

Humanitarian groups and world renowned musicians are teaming up in a year long campaign for peace in Sudan.  The global effort is meant to draw attention to continued human rights violations in Sudan and prevent the vast African nation from slipping back into full-scale war. Dozens of activists gathered in London to help kick off the campaign.

This is the global 'beat for peace' for Sudan and musicians and humanitarian activists around the world are part of it.

Temperatures in London are below freezing, but many braved the cold to gather opposite the prime minister's offices at Number 10 Downing Street.  

They're calling on the British government and world leaders to prevent Sudan from slipping back into what has been Africa's longest running civil war.

Rita Paulino is the head of Sudan Women's Association in Britain. She explains why this campaign is so important.

"Almost we have six generations of people living in the time of war and we want to experience peace and we want to be developed and we have suffered a lot from the war- losing everything," said Paulino. "And that is why we want to campaign and continue to campaign for peace because peace is the only solution for us."

Britain is one of 15 countries where a coalition of humanitarian groups is launching the year long campaign for peace.  They are calling it "Sudan 365" and timing it to next year's scheduled national referendum in Sudan, when voters decide whether southern Sudan breaks away from the north or whether the country remains united.

A significant step, says Paulino. "Since the independence we have not been asked for our choice and this is the time to exercise our democracy and our right to say that we want to vote for unity or separation," she said.

The long running civil war has pitted the predominantly Arab north of Sudan against the mostly Christian and animist south.

Violence spread to the eastern region of Darfur in 2003. The conflict has been marked by gross violations of human rights and left millions dead and millions more homeless.

Sudanese President Umar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashar was charged by the International Criminal Court for 'war crimes' in 2008, although the government has repeatedly denied these allegations.

A peace treaty was signed in January 2005, but violence flared again just last year. Humanitarian groups say the peace remains fragile and they fear the country could easily slip back into full scale war ahead of next year's vote.
 
Khatir Kayabil is the President of Darfur Union in Britain and he says a lot is at stake.

"Two million people have been killed in South Sudan and more than 3,000 people have been killed by the government of South Sudan in Darfur," said Kayabil. "If the international community,  our world leaders [do] not take action, that is [going to] mean a lot of people is [are] going to die tomorrow."

The international campaign has enlisted the support of world famous drummers, including from bands such as Pink Floyd, Radiohead, The Police and Snow Patrol alongside musicians from Sudan, Egypt and other countries.

British officials have said they will continue to bolster peace efforts. 

In Khartoum, the Sudanese government has dismissed dire predictions of a possible return to civil war.

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