Trying to Find Effective Solutions and Compassionate Responses to the Deteriorating Situation with Sudan and South Sudan

A woman walks towards a cave shelter in Bram village in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan April 28, 2012. Fleeing aerial bombardment by the Sudanese air force thousands of people have abandoned their homes and made make-shift shelters between the rocks and boulders. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters)

A woman walks towards a cave shelter in Bram village in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan April 28, 2012. Fleeing aerial bombardment by the Sudanese air force thousands of people have abandoned their homes and made make-shift shelters between the rocks and boulders. (Goran Tomasevic / Reuters)

“It is high time the international community realise that Sudan is the real problem and it is time to put strong pressure although the government is obsessed with sanctions. There is actually a need to put powerful and effective sanctions. The African Union should take [the] lead”, said Luka Biong, a senior South Sudanese official.

A UN deadline for Sudan and South Sudan to resume talks on oil and other critical issues looked likely to pass without action on Wednesday, as South Sudan accused Khartoum of stalling. The South’s lead negotiator, Pagun Amum told AFP that Juba has sent a letter to the AU mediator, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, saying “we have been ready to resume talks and we are waiting.”

But according to Pagan, the Sudan and South Sudan could not reach an agreement on their oil relationship. South Sudan was willing to pay a transit fee of $0.69 per barrel to use Sudan’s oil pipelines. Despite the generous sum compared to other international oil agreements, Sudan disagreed, demanding a sum of $36.00 per barrel.

Meanwhile, almost five million people in South Sudan, more than half of the population, face increasingly severe food shortages after their government ceased oil exports in a row with the country’s neighbour, Sudan.

On a bed of sticks in one of the many straw huts in Yida, Younam, a 14-year-old boy, told the story of how his family fled bombings of their village. When his family and other refugees reached Jau, a town on the border with South Sudan, Bashir’s soldiers attacked. Hiding under a tree, Younam witnessed the rampage. “They cut the babies; then the young people,” the boy recalled. “Then they stoned my parents until they died.” Days later, Younam arrived at Yida—naked, hungry, and scared. “I’m worried there is no one who will ever be able to love me like my parents did,” he said, rubbing his eyes to hold back tears.

Adding to the desperate situation, the U.N.’s refugee agency has refused to recognize Yida as a formal refugee camp, setting up two smaller rival camps to the south. Refugees say the other camps are built on swampy, treeless land and that they are unsuitable for living. Refugees, meanwhile, keep pouring into Yida.

It is overwhelming to bear witness to these heart-breaking atrocities and to maintain compassionate responses but let us try to absorb the essence of Ubuntu and realize that what dehumanizes others inexorably dehumanizes us. As an external observer, it is important to be emotionally present and self-aware to be able to find appropriate ways to help those in need.

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