Update on conflict in the Sudans

Canon Ian Woodward, Chairman of our Salisbury Sudans Partnership Link gives us an update on what is going on in the Sudans.

Speaking to Archbishop Ezekiel (++Ezekiel), the Primate of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, about the Christmas festivities on 27 December held a sense of poignancy. The Church commemorated Holy Innocents Day marking the slaughter by King Herod of babies in and around Bethlehem and Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt for their safety. Archbishop Ezekiel had to flee from Khartoum with his family and staff last April for their safety. We helped him establish his new base in Port Sudan. He had just returned from a Christmas pastoral visit to some of his people in Dongola, Atbara and Shendi including those in displaced persons camps. Some particularly joyful events in the midst of misery, were ecumenical services that he led with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters and other denominations. The savage fighting between the Sudan Government forces (the SAF) and the Rapid Support force (RSF) continues to devastate Sudan. It is a conflict that has virtually disappeared from the world’s media, due to the coverage of Ukraine and Gaza. Yet all three conflicts are suspected of being acts of ‘genocide’ this in United Nations protocols demands action by the Security Council.

In a recent report in the Economist, the RSF, led by Muhammed Dagalo (also known as Hemedti), has forced some seven million people to leave their homes – that’s almost one sixth of the population and estimates of deaths in the fighting are tragically said to be more than 12,000. 1.4 million people have fled to neighbouring countries including South Sudan.

Khartoum, and Omdurman - just across the Nile, have been devasted. In the west, in Darfur, the RSF is conducting, along with allied Arab militias, a campaign of ethnic cleansing against black Africans ‘so bloody that many fear a repeat of the genocide there two decades ago’. The additional worry for the Sudan government is that the RSF has the support of a number of African leaders and the United Arab Emirates, whilst it is reported that General Burhan and the Sudan Government and SAF have support from Iran. ++Ezekiel sees no immediate solution but asks for our continuing prayers and expresses his grateful thanks for our support. Most of his people are surviving on one meal a day – a sobering thought when most of us have more than the food we really need. Since the savage fighting started in April last year, ++Ezekiel has been clear that his priority is for food for his people. Over three months we have sent him £30,000 (in batches). We always check that each payment has been received and properly spent before we may make a further contribution. He has also asked that the funds we send that have usually been allocated for education, be spent on emergency food relief. (except maintaining support for the Shokai Theological College in Omdurman) For 2024 we are budgeting a further £16,000 for emergency food aid.

In this past week, 54 people have been killed in the Abyei region including two UN peacekeepers, from Ghana and Pakistan on the Sudan/South Sudan border. Armed young men from South Sudan’s Warrap State carried out the raids. Abyei is an oil rich state area jointly administered by South Sudan and Sudan which have both staked claims to it. There have also been repeated clashes in Abyei between rival factions of the Dinka ethnic group related to the collection of taxes and cross border trade and, additionally, fighting by a rebel leader from the Nuer ethnic group against Dinkas and Nuers.

This week, The Most Revd Samuel Peni the head of the internal province of Western Equatoria in South Sudan, is visiting the UK following meetings in Rome, where he represented the Anglican Communion in ecumenical discussions. We will be sharing ideas on how our Partnership can better work with the ECSS on peace, education and development plans, and updates with our Medical Link and discussions with our Bishop Stephen. The UK along with the United States and Norway known as the ‘Troika’ still hold the role of ‘guarantor’ of the peace agreement in the Sudans which includes Abyei a disputed area claimed by both Sudans. We continue to work with the Sudans APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) and our FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) in supporting peace initiatives.

Our partnership funds are being rapidly depleted, we need to raise our income if we are to sustain our support in these challenging times. Our Medical Link is leading the way with many successful fundraising events and is making a real and positive contribution to the health of people in Western Equatoria province in South Sudan but we also need to do better in our education, development and humanitarian initiatives more widely across Sudan and South Sudan.

Contributions would be gratefully received and can be sent to our Salisbury diocesan account:

Sort code 30-97-41,

Account number 00007237

With the reference ‘Sudans Partnership’ or ‘Sudans Medical Link’ as your preference

Bringing an abiding peace to the Sudans is so important to everyone who lives there and supports the people there, and the Churches have a key role to play in working with all those who know that peace and harmony will bring prosperity and progress. – Thank you.

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