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Violence Eclipses South Sudan Aid Meeting

Soldiers from Sudan's army celebrate after gaining control of the area, at the Blue Nile state capital al-Damazin, September 5, 2011.
Soldiers from Sudan's army celebrate after gaining control of the area, at the Blue Nile state capital al-Damazin, September 5, 2011.

Leaders of the newly-independent South Sudan met Wednesday with officials of donor countries and would-be investors in Washington in a conference overshadowed by conflict in areas of Sudan bordering the new state. The United States is warning the two neighbors not to fuel the violence.

The U.S.-sponsored two-day conference is aimed at showcasing investment prospects in potentially oil-rich South Sudan.

Violence between the Sudanese army and rebels with links to southern Sudan in two regions along the border of the new country, however, is clouding hopes for an early economic surge.

Continued fighting, displaced people

The United Nations said Tuesday more than 400,000 people have been displaced in Sudan’s border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile as a result of the fighting, which erupted just before South Sudan gained independence in July.

Sudan accuses the south of encouraging attacks on its forces by SPLM-North insurgents [Sudan People's Liberation Movement] with ties to the southern independence movement.

At a news briefing here, U.S. Sudan special envoy Princeton Lyman said the United States has strongly cautioned South Sudan against fomenting trouble in the border regions.

But he said the main cause of the unrest is the failure of Sudanese authorities to complete promised  power-sharing accords with the people of the troubled regions.

“The government in Khartoum is wrong to say that the problem of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile arises because of possible support from the south. That’s not the source of the problem," said Lyman. "The source is that political issues in those two states, which were to be resolved through processes of popular consultations and negotiation, have not been resolved. And the government of Khartoum and the people from those states have to get back to a political process.”

Peace accord on hold for now

To encourage the Khartoum government to fulfil the 2005 north-south peace accord that led to southern independence, the United States offered Khartoum a “road map” of incentives, including an end to sanctions and normalized relations.

But Lyman said the violence and deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the troubled regions have put the “road map” on hold.

“No question it’s been a setback. We have told the [Khartoum] government that it’s impossible to move forward on some of the key elements of the road map when they are bombing civilians and denying humanitarian access to Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. You just can’t, so we have made that point clear, and it’s a fact,” said Lyman.

The U.S. envoy said southern secession, which cost Khartoum 70 percent of its oil revenue, has caused serious economic problems for the north and that pursuing military options in the border regions is “very counterproductive” to the country’s needs.

Raj Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said that despite current problems, “a long line” of investors see opportunity in the south, but that the southern government needs to make a strong commitment to transparency and accountability.

South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir addresses the Washington meeting Wednesday, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


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