Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sudan Crisis Heightened by Threat to Aid Workers Millions Are in Need of Food as Rebels Trade Accusations over Murders

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sudan Crisis Heightened by Threat to Aid Workers Millions Are in Need of Food as Rebels Trade Accusations over Murders

Article excerpt

IN a crisis overshadowed by Somalia and the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, 2.8 million people in southern Sudan caught in the continuing civil war are in need of urgent food relief.

But even as the United Nations pursues a worldwide appeal for funds for the Sudan emergency, assaults on relief workers by rebels in the south have stalled international aid efforts.

Soldiers of one of two breakaway factions of the main rebel group, the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA), last week forced Jean Francois Darcq, an employee of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), to strip to his underclothing and run over thorns. He was shot at, according to the UN, but not hit.

Last September, a UNICEF employee, two private relief workers, and a Norwegian journalist were murdered on a dirt road near this remote rebel outpost in southern Sudan.

On Tuesday, a senior SPLA commander in this remote rebel outpost revealed for the first time the results of an SPLA investigation that they say backs their earlier claims that the murders were the work of a splinter rebel group. But UN and private relief officials contacted were not convinced.

"I think that's nonsense," said Richard Venegoni, international relief director for World Vision, which has long operated in southern Sudan. He blamed the murders on the SPLA, whose main faction is headed by Col. John Garang.

"All these incidents make it pretty difficult to continue to be sympathetic and work in the Garang-held area," he said.

Up to 1.7 million southern Sudanese have been displaced by the 10-year-old war, according to the WFP. In this part of southern Sudan, near the Uganda border, more than 100,000 displaced are depending on food aid. But after the murders, the UN and most relief groups pulled out.

As a result, death rates soared in camps for the displaced, according to Sudanese relief workers. A large portion of the children in the camps are malnourished, says Philip O'Brien, head of the UN's "Operation Lifeline Sudan."

There are "screaming humanitarian needs" in this region, he said yesterday. Told of the SPLA's formal denial of any role in the murders, Mr. …

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