Home | News    Tuesday 28 June 2005

Loss of livestock hurts eastern Sudan tribe - report

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ASMARA, June (Reuters) - Disease, drought and conflict have reduced livestock in rebel-held eastern Sudan by about 40 percent over the past five years, endangering the lifestyle of thousands of Beja tribesmen, an aid agency said on Monday.

Beja people collect water in the rebel-controlled area of eastern Sudan, near the border with Eritrea June 4, 2005. The Beja people live a virtually medieval existence among desert plains and stony mountains in remote and rebel-controlled eastern Sudan. Lack of development in their region is one of the main grievances that spur the Beja rebels who have controlled this small area on the Eritrean border since early 1997. (Reuters).

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said immediate action was essential to protect the Beja culture.

Dependent on their livestock for food and wealth, between 45,000 and 186,000 Beja inhabit rebel-controlled territory in Sudan’s arid east.

Several hundred kilometres further north, rebels attacked military bases in government-controlled land last week and claim to have been bombarded by government planes. The rebels, themselves mainly Beja, say they are fighting against Khartoum’s neglect of, and discrimination against, their region.

The IRC said it had found an epidemic of tuberculosis in livestock in 17 Beja communities, and isolated cases of rinderpest and anthrax.

"It leaves an enormous problem because the whole livelihood of this community depends on their goats and on their cattle and on their camels," said Fergus Thomas, the IRC’s field coordinator in northeast Sudan.

Analysts fear eastern Sudan could be another flashpoint in Africa’s biggest country, where the Darfur conflict has brought international condemnation. A 21 year-old war in the south of the country ended six months ago.

An estimated 2.4 million to four million Beja live in eastern Sudan.

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