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U.S. Congressman accuses Sudan of obstructing humanitarian access

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Congressman James McGovern

March 3, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - United States Congressman Jim McGovern has expressed strong disagreement with the easing of sanctions against Khartoum holding Sudanese parliament responsible for authorising repressive actions carried out by the government.

Last January, former President Barack Obama eased the 19-year economic and trade sanctions on Sudan. The decision came as a response to the collaboration of the Sudanese government in the fight against terrorism, denying safe haven to the South Sudanese rebels and, improving humanitarian access to people in need.

This week, Jim McGovern, a senior House Democrat and leading voice in Congress on human rights, met with the Speaker of the Sudanese Parliament Ibrahim Ahmed Omer.

In a press release on Tuesday, the Democratic Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission said during the meeting that Sudan’s National Assembly and Omer in particular, “have been responsible for authorising many of the most repressive actions carried out by the regime of President Bashir”.

“And therefore are accountable for the murder of millions of their fellow citizens and for the humanitarian crisis in Sudan,” he added.

According to the press release, the Congressman “plans to reintroduce bipartisan legislation this year to impose targeted sanctions on the Sudanese government for its genocidal acts and crimes against humanity”.

McGovern insisted “on the continuing need for unfettered humanitarian access, the release of all political prisoners and the cessation of all hostilities” in order to further improving bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Sudan.

He accused the Sudanese government of renewing attacks against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) positions in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile.

“Rather than ensure humanitarian access to South Kordofan, Darfur and Blue Nile, Khartoum has renewed offensive operations in South Kordofan, in violation of the agreements reached with the Obama Administration that resulted in the easing of sanctions,” he pointed out.

South Kordofan and neighbouring Blue Nile states have been the scene of violent conflict between the SPLM-N and Sudanese army since 2011.

Last August, the two sides failed to reach a humanitarian cessation of hostilities deal paving the way for political talks including the political opposition parties.

In a bid to break the deadlock in the peace talks between the Sudanese government and SPLM-N, the former U.S. Special Envoy Donald Booth last November proposed that the USAID will deliver medical humanitarian aid to civilians in the rebel-held areas by air directly after its inspection from the government.

The SPLM-N declined the proposal insisting on the need to transport 20% of the humanitarian aid directly from Ethiopian border town of Asosa to the rebel areas.

Meanwhile, U.S. Charge d’Affaires to Khartoum Steven Koutsis on Friday has urged the SPLM-N to allow humanitarian assistance to areas under its control saying the Sudanese government has agreed to the U.S. proposal in this regard.

In an opinion article published in Sudan Tribune on Friday, Koutsis reiterated the U.S. proposal saying Washington has offered to deliver humanitarian medical assistance to the people in SPLM-N controlled areas.

“Our offer to oversee and implement these deliveries intends to give confidence to the SPLM-N that the Government of Sudan would not be able to control or block aid provided under this mechanism,” said Koutsis.

He pointed that the Sudanese government “has agreed to this proposal, but as of yet, the SPLM-N has not allowed the proposal for humanitarian access to go forward”.

“Given current predictions of emergency-level food insecurity likely to occur within the next two months in SPLM-N controlled areas, an agreement to allow humanitarian access to begin now is critical to save lives,” he warned.

“The United States urges the SPLM-N to remove political conditions preventing humanitarian assistance from reaching populations in need and allow rapid deployment of humanitarian aid to civilians in the areas it controls,” he further said.

(ST)

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