Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`Worst Unattended Disaster'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

`Worst Unattended Disaster'

Article excerpt

THE air was filled with anxiety when the two Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) leaders, Riek Machar and John Garang, met in Washington recently for the first time since the movement split in 1991. More than 500,000 southern Sudanese have died in the past two years, largely as a result of SPLM factional fighting and related famine and disease.

I invited representatives of the warring parties to Washington, hoping to alleviate the desperate humanitarian crisis in Sudan. Three-way fighting has taken place between the Islamic-oriented regime in Khartoum and the two SPLM factions in the south. The Khartoum government declined the invitation. Since only the two SPLM leaders accepted, I decided to tackle this part of the conflict.

The two leaders came to Washington in good faith to start a process of reconciliation regarding the southern conflict. Despite a brutal government offensive against his forces, Dr. Garang made his way here; Dr. Machar patiently waited for his onetime friend. The warmth and civil behavior of Garang and Machar toward each other stunned everyone. After several hours of fruitful discussion over a pizza, the two leaders agreed on a sweeping range of issues.

For the first time, they agreed on the principle of self-determination for the people of southern Sudan, Nuba, and other areas, and to a cessation of hostilities. The two leaders sent a cease-fire order to their commanders and agreed to a follow-up meeting in Nairobi.

This breakthrough was barely noticed by the media. An entire generation of southern Sudanese has been dying in intense, brutal fighting. It is fair to say that the children of southern Sudan are an endangered species. Some 1.5 million southern Sudanese have died in the past decade as a result of war, famine, and disease; two million have been displaced. …

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