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Rescuing the peace in Southern Sudan

If you have an eye for obscure countries, you might have seen Southern Sudan in the news over the past few days. In fact, Southern Sudan has recently had a good deal more coverage than it usually gets. In a country where widespread suffering continues on a daily basis, the media often don’t view a violent clash here or a flood there as “newsworthy” – if it’s not new, it’s not news; and if it’s not news it won’t sell many papers.

But on Thursday 7 January, a coalition of NGOs, including Save the Children in South Sudan, released a report – Rescuing the Peace in Southern Sudan. Its aim: to highlight the importance of the coming year for Sudan as a whole, and to warn of the danger of a return to civil war.

The ten NGOs are urging the international community to engage more at a diplomatic level with the governments of both Sudan and Southern Sudan respectively. Amongst others, Reuters, The Guardian, the BBC and even Metro carried stories on the release of the report, which has hopefully helped to refocus the world’s attention on both the dire humanitarian situation in southern Sudan and the need for continued international engagement.

The Report was officially launched in Juba, the capital of southern Sudan. Kate Foster, Save the Children in South Sudan’s Director of Programme Development and Advocacy, was on the panel representing the NGOs and introduced the event with a great speech outlining the purpose of the report and the need for urgent action.

Save the Children's Kate Foster, speaking at the official launch of the Report in Juba, southern Sudan
Save the Children's Kate Foster speaking at the launch of the Report in Juba, southern Sudan.

On the same day (and as if to underline the situation of growing violence across the country) reports emerged of a clash between two ethnic groups in which 140 people were killed. Although the scale of this clash was larger than normal, these sorts of incidents are common. The fear is that they will increase in frequency and intensity, until the whole of Sudan slides back into another internecine civil war.

Most commentators agree that the only possible (and peaceful) alternative is that southerners are able to vote in a January 2011 referendum about whether they wish to secede from the north and become a fully autonomous country. The successful and strong diplomatic engagement of capitals around the world can ensure that this referendum happens; and it’s up to people like us to put pressure on our government so that they do exactly that.

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