8th assembly/50th anniversary

Together on the Way
8.3. Policy Reference Committee II Report
Appendix I: Sudan

Addressing the WCC eighth assembly Bishop Paride Taban of Torit Diocese, Sudan, called on the international community to demonstrate more political will and help to stop the slaughter in Southern Sudan. The assembly recalls that in 1972 the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) brokered a Peace Accord between the government in the North of the Sudan and the Anyanya I, precursor to the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), in the South. As a result of this Addis Ababa Accord, there was peace in the country till the re-ignition of the conflict in the early 1980s.

This latest outbreak of conflict, which continues unabated, has claimed over a million lives, has displaced countless numbers both internally and outside the borders of the country and has forced the majority remaining to subsist with outside humanitarian assistance. Moreover, the economy in the South has been devastated and is virtually bankrupt. But compounding an already desperate situation the area was hit by famine and starvation.

As is often the case in conflict situations, human rights violations are perpetuated on all sides with mounting incidences of extrajudicial executions, rape, torture, forced relocation, dispossession of land and cattle and enslavement particularly of women and children. These crimes have been well documented by international agencies. Yet no relief is in sight for the victims and their families.

What began as a result of dispute between the North and the South over power sharing and equitable distribution of resources has become even more complex. Prolongation of the war has resulted in violent ethnic and factional infighting in the South. In the North, the government decision to implement the Islamic sharia has completely alienated and marginalized the non-Muslim religious minorities. But the war has also regional and international dimensions. Political and economic factors within the Horn of Africa and the fear of Islamic expansionism have prevented attempts to arrange a cease fire.

During this period of renewed conflict, the WCC and its member churches and aid agencies have continued to provide emergency humanitarian assistance and development aid to the victims. They have continued to express their concern at the escalation of the conflict and the resultant loss of life and property, and the use of humanitarian aid as a weapon of war.

In May 1998, after a visit to the region, United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan said that the warring parties "have restricted access to area where people are suffering; they have banned humanitarian aircraft, including essential cargo planes, and they have attacked refugee camps, truck convoys and relief workers". It has become increasingly clear that aid alone will not bring an end to the suffering of the Sudanese people. Only a just and peaceful settlement will provide them with a chance to rebuild their lives.

The WCC has endeavoured to work for peace through the Sudan Ecumenical Forum, which has provided space for church leaders in the North and the South to revitalize their efforts to promote peace. As a result, these church leaders have developed their position on peace in the Sudan and gave expression to it in the paper "United We Stand in Action for Peace". The WCC continues to support and encourage them as they struggle for a just and durable peace in their country. It is convinced that the Inter-Governmental Agency for Development (IGAD) peace process is the best hope for achieving this objective. Therefore, the WCC will continue to call on the international community to take all necessary steps to revive and strengthen the IGAD peace process. The Declaration of Principles of the IGAD provides a viable framework and basis for a just and lasting peace in the Sudan.

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