Bloomberg News

U.S. Sudan Envoy Lyman Says 500,000 People May Face Famine

January 25, 2012

(Updates with comment by Lyman in third paragraph, International Crisis Group starting in fifth.)

Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) -- About half a million people in Sudan’s border states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile may face “emergency conditions bordering on famine” by March, said the U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Princeton Lyman.

This “could be a horrific tragedy that would rattle the souls of Africa and the world for years to come,” Lyman said today in Pretoria, the South African capital. African leaders should urged Sudan to allow international and United Nations aid agencies access to the area, he said.

“There is a lot of pressure if that doesn’t happen to try and provide assistance across the border against the wishes of the government of Sudan,” he said. “We have made no decision to do that.”

Border state clashes have intensified since South Sudan seceded on July 9 and took control of the former state’s oil output of 490,000 barrels a day. President Umar al-Bashir’s government is battling members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, which was part of South Sudan’s ruling party until the south’s independence and is banned by Sudan.

Zach Vertin, a Sudan analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said President Barack Obama’s administration has been discussing the possibility of starting an operation to provide aid to civilians in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile without Sudan’s approval.

Pressure to Act

“Washington has given this a great deal of thought, as it and others have made clear that it will be difficult to ignore further catastrophe in Southern Kordofan,” he said today by phone from Nairobi, Kenya. “It’s a very tough call, but with Khartoum providing no avenues for cooperation and an even greater humanitarian crisis looming, Washington feels pressed to act.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said yesterday that Sudan’s government has “deliberately denied access” to international aid and UN workers in the conflict in the two states, Her concerns were spelled out in a Jan. 16 letter to the president of the Security Council, South Africa’s Baso Sangqu.

U.S. provision of aid without Sudan’s consent, Vertin said, “could potentially prompt a negative response from Khartoum, cause further deterioration of U.S.-Sudan relations, and generate consternation from those already made wary by international intervention in Libya.”

Direct Confrontation

Lyman said the fighting in the two states risks drawing Sudan and South Sudan into direct confrontation.

“It’s a serious conflict and because of that conflict there have been clashes between the government of Sudan and the forces of South Sudan over the border,” he said. “So there is a danger not only in that conflict, but of it spreading and involving the two countries. It’s a danger if this conflict isn’t brought under control.”

Lyman urged the Sudanese authorities to halt bombing in the states and said that if they did and allowed aid groups access to Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, the U.S. was willing to “move forward” on discussions about removing Sudan from a State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Sudan has been categorized by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terrorism since 1993 and subject to U.S. economic sanctions since 1997.

--With assistance from Flavia Krause-Jackson in United Nations. Editors: Karl Maier, Antony Sguazzin

To contact the reporters on this story: Franz Wild in Pretoria at fwild@bloomberg.net; Jared Ferrie in Juba, South Sudan, at jferrie1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net


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