Rebel leader dismisses Sudan aid deal as "gimmick"
ADDIS ABABA |
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - A Sudanese rebel leader said on Tuesday that, despite agreeing to do so, Sudan was not serious about providing humanitarian aid in insurgent-controlled areas in two border states and was putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk.
Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, which border newly independent South Sudan, has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes since last year, the United Nations and aid groups say.
Relief agencies have said fighting has reduced harvests in the regions and their people could face serious food shortages as stocks dwindle.
Sudan, under pressure from the international community, said last month it had accepted a plan drawn up by the United Nations, the African Union and the Arab League to secure delivery of aid to both areas, a proposal it had earlier rejected.
Yasir Arman, Secretary-General of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N), dismissed the move as insincere.
"It is just a gimmick, it is buying time. In actual fact, they are putting up a lot of obstacles," he told Reuters in an interview in Addis Ababa, where SPLM-N leaders have been meeting Sudanese officials on the sidelines of talks between Khartoum and Juba.
"They are insisting that they will deliver the food in ... the areas controlled by the SPLM-N. They want to subject and to link the humanitarian operations with the political agreement."
Khartoum says it has the humanitarian situation under control in the parts of the two states it controls but that rebel attacks are preventing aid from reaching other areas.
The SPLM-N says dozens are dying from hunger every day in the two regions. "The situation is ugly, bad and deteriorating by the day," Arman said.
Sudanese Information Ministry official Rabie Abdelati said the rebels were the ones attacking civilians and preventing aid from reaching the areas. "The aid will not be provided to these areas until the rebels stop attacking these areas," he said.
'LOOKING FOR ALIBIS'
Sudan's 2011 partition under a peace deal that ended decades of civil war left tens of thousands of SPLM-N fighters, who had sided with the south during the conflict, living north of the border.
Clashes between government forces and rebels resumed in South Kordofan just before southern independence and in Blue Nile in September.
The insurgents say they cut ties with South Sudan after independence, but Khartoum accuses Juba of continuing to provide military and financial support to the rebels.
The issue has complicated talks between the two countries and made it harder to settle disputes on issues such as the position of the border and how much landlocked South Sudan should pay to export crude oil through Sudan.
Arman denied the rebels were getting support from the South.
"They (Sudan) are ... trying to look for an external factor for an internal problem. People are looking for alibis from the outside."
He said Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir would face rebellions as long as the Arab governing elite in Khartoum marginalised certain groups - which he did not name.
The SPLM-N formed the umbrella Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) last year alongside rebels from the western Darfur region.
Khartoum accuses the SRF of trying to sow chaos on behalf of their former comrades in Juba, an allegation South Sudan denies.
(Additional reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Tim Pearce)
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