February 24, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Rebels fighting the Sudanese government in the country’s border state of South Kordofan revealed Friday that they have signed a deal with regional and international actors, including the UN, on delivering aid to their areas.
Meanwhile, the UN has announced that the Sudanese government had allowed its personnel to return to the war-battered state.
Mark Cutts, the acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, on Friday said that two of their staff members have arrived in South Kordofan’s capital Kadugli after receiving authorisation from the Sudanese government.
The development comes one day after the UN declined to comment on claims by the Sudanese authorities that an assessment conducted in South Kordofan had concluded that the humanitarian situation there is “normal” and the level of food security is good.
Cutts said the UN cannot comment on the results of the survey because it is yet to see the results which were announced by Sudan on Thursday. He also said they had encountered difficulties in working with the government, suggesting it imposed restrictions on the UN.
While welcoming the return of UN staff members, Cutts called for extending the assessment to all conflict-affected areas. He further stressed that ending the fighting would guarantee an end to the humanitarian situation.
“As long as fighting continues, civilians will suffer,” he said.
The conflict in South Kordofan erupted in June last year between government forces and rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLMN), which used to be affiliated to the ruling party in neighbouring South Sudan before it seceded from Sudan in July last year. The conflict spread to Blue Nile state in September.
Sudan has strongly resisted international pressure to allow international aid agencies to operate in the two states. However, Khartoum later diluted its stance, saying it will give international aid groups limited access and without involvement in the distribution of aid which is to be handled by local organisations.
Earlier this month, the UN Security Council expressed concern over the situation in the two states and called on the Sudanese government and the rebels to allow international humanitarian intervention.
Meanwhile, the rebels announced on Friday that they signed a deal on 16 February with the UN, the African Union and the Arab League to allow aid into their areas. But the implementation of the deal, according to the SPLM-N’s spokesmen, Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, is yet to be discussed.
“Time is running out and people are suffering so it needs to happen as soon as possible,” Lodi told Bloomberg from the Kenyan capital Nairobi. However, he expressed concern that Khartoum might withdraw commitment to the deal.
We are not confident of Khartoum honoring this agreement, because we know Khartoum signs agreements and does not honor them” the rebel official said.
The UN says fighting in the two states has displaced 417,000 people and that levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in rebel-controlled areas have reached “alarming levels.
Hopes for a political settlement to the conflict in the two states had dissipated after Sudan’s President Omer Al-Bashir disavowed on a deal signed by his negotiators with the rebels and vowed to crush them militarily.