CWS as a member of the ACT (Action by Churches Together) Alliance is deeply concerned about the resumption of hostilities in the contested Abyei area of Sudan and its impact on the civilians, most of whom are reported to have fled the main town. Abyei is administered by both the Government of Sudan and the government of south Sudan but was due to hold a referendum this year to decide which of the two governments it would join when the country divided on July 9.ACT strongly encourages all parties to the conflict to respect the existing Comprehensive Peace Agreement which was signed by the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement in 2005 after more than two decades of civil war. This is the only process that will bring peace, an end to the long standing humanitarian crisis and a journey to development for Sudan.On 19 May, a United Nations convoy transporting Sudanese Armed Forces Joint Integration Units (units consisting of equal numbers from the SAF and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army) came under fire. Over the past days, fighting has intensified in Abyei and surrounding areas, and heavy shelling of Abyei town took place on May 21. The town is currently under the control of government forces.UNOCHA reports that the situation in the Abyei area is highly volatile. Most of the civilian population has fled to Agok town, carrying few belongings. Estimates indicate there could be more than 15,000 people displaced in and around Agok, urgently needing shelter, relief goods, food and water.ACT Alliance is monitoring humanitarian events and as part of its contingency planning has prepositioned a variety of relief goods in the neighbouring states of Warrap and South Kordofan. ACT is also liaising and coordinating with other humanitarian organisations on the ground including the UN and the Caritas network.ACT says both parties have a responsibility to protect civilians and ensure unimpeded humanitarian access to the affected communities in Abyei and the surrounding areas.ACT Alliance general secretary John Nduna said war should not be an option for Sudan, and reminded parties of their responsibilities to protect civilians.“The people of Sudan have suffered the effects of war for many years and everything should be done to safeguard the ongoing peace process and protect the people of Abyei. We urge the parties to seek a peaceful resolution to the current challenges.”CWS has long supported relief and development efforts in South Sudan and Darfur through the ACT Alliance and direct partners. CWS asks churches and others of goodwill to remember the people of Sudan in their prayers during the months ahead. The Sudan Appeal for much needed assistance remains open.
May 26, 2011