Requiem for the Sudan: War, Drought, and Disaster Relief on the Nile

Requiem for the Sudan: War, Drought, and Disaster Relief on the Nile

Requiem for the Sudan: War, Drought, and Disaster Relief on the Nile

Requiem for the Sudan: War, Drought, and Disaster Relief on the Nile

Synopsis

After a decade of uneasy peace, the historic conflict between the Northern Sudanese, who identify with their Middle Eastern neighbors, and the Southern Sudanese, who are of African heritage, erupted into violent conflict in 1983. This ferocious civil war, with its Arab militias and widespread use of automatic weapons, has devastated the populace. Nature has added to the miseries of war, bringing drought and famine to the already battered victims of violence. Although this regional calamity remains largely unknown to the outside world, the death toll among the Southern Sudanese far exceeds that in both Somalia or Bosnia. Over a million people have either perished or been displaced. This chilling account of the ravages of drought and civil war is based on a wealth of documents- never made public- from Sudanese government sources, private and foreign governmental aid agencies, research groups, international media, and other organizations involved in famine relief efforts. The authors graphically recount how the attempts of the international agencies and humanitarian organzations to provide food and medical relief have been thwarted by bureaucratic infighting, corruption, greed, and ineptitude. This rich narrative illustrates with great clarity the convoluted relationship that relief agencies had with the Sudanese government as they tried to negotiate the means of survival for the area's desperate population. It is a sad tale of the tragic human consequences of the failure of conflict resolution, of organizational mismanagement, and of a government hostile toward its own people.

Excerpt

J. Millard Burr began his investigation of drought in the African Sahil in 1982, working in the Office of the Geographer, U.S. Department of State. Robert O. Collins has written on the history of the Sudan for more than thirty years. This book is a collaborative effort in every sense, in that we have brought together the specialized knowledge from different perspectives and disciplines in an attempt to illuminate the complex and tangled course of events over the past troubling decade in the Sudan.

In 1988 the late Charles Gladson, director of the Africa Bureau, U.S. Agency for International Development, invited Millard Burr to take the position as logistics director in the USAID-Sudan mission. Gladson was incensed that the international response to the devastating 1988 famine in Southern Sudan had been so tardy and so inadequate. With the inception in March 1989 of UN-sponsored Operation Lifeline Sudan--an entirely new approach to the distribution of humanitarian assistance in a nation at war with itself--Millard Burr accumulated a massive amount of material on the famine itself and on the markedly successful relief effort. When the civilian government of Sadiq al-Mahdi was overthrown by a military coup in June 1989, we began to follow closely the activities of the Revolutionary Command Council and of those civilians who supported its totalitarian aims. Many unpublished U.S. Foreign Broadcast Information Service transcriptions and translations of Sudanese radio and news reports were collected. Meanwhile, beginning in 1988 the Agency for International Development scanned the domestic and international press daily and for nearly two years provided news reports on the Sudan to its USAID mission in Khartoum. In Khartoum employees of various international nongovernmental organizations (especially UN personnel) and private voluntary organizations provided copies of studies, minutes of meetings, trip reports, and a multitude of ephemera. Many individuals continue to send reports on a variety of Sudanese issues.

Writing the dark history of the famine and civil war recounted here was largely possible because of our access to such documents, most of which are unlikely ever to be made public. They graphically revealed the tragic human consequences of the failure of conflict resolution, of or-

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