AFRICA/SUDAN - Officially the war in Darfur is over but some say the exact opposite is true and they ask for dialogue to prevail. “The government must behave like a father who has a problem with his son and sits down to talk to solve it together” says Sudanese Bishop Macram Max Gassis

Thursday, 12 February 2004

Khartoum (Fides Service ) - Opinions differ with regard to the war in the region of Sudan’s eastern region of Darfur. While the government says most of its military operations in the area have been concluded, others affirm the exact opposite. “The war is not over at all. Khartoum’s air strikes continue and government army attacks in the zone have never stopped ” Bishop Macram Max Gassis, Bishop of El Obeid told Fides.
On Tuesday 10 February a government spokesman announced that the government had concluded large scale military operations in Darfur and brought the region under government control. “This is not true, Bishop Gassis told Fides, fighting continues and more and more people are having to abandon their homes and land”. The war in Darfur which started in February last year has become more intense in recent weeks. At least 3,000 people have been killed. The conflict is between the regular army with pro-government militia and two opposition movements Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality. The movements say they are fighting to obtain more attention for the region which they claim is ignored by the central government.
Bishop Gassis calls for dialogue: “I ask the government to start dialogue immediately to end the war in Darfur. The government cannot kill innocent women, children and old people in its war on guerrilla groups. Arms are not a solution they only spread hatred which only fuels more violence. The government should know this considering that after years of war it decided to sit down and talk to end the war in southern Sudan and the Nuba Mountains. With this in mind I fail to understand why they should choose violence to settle the question of Dafur seeing that violence has proved no solution to conflict in other areas of Sudan. The government must behave like a father who has a problem with his son and sits down to talk to solve it together”.
The war in Darfur has increased the food shortage in Sudan. A joint report issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO and the World Food Programme says that about 3.6 million people will have to rely on food supplies from international humanitarian organisations. According to the report “the present conflict in Darfur has caused considerable damage to farmland and made at least 1.2 million people refugees”. Although a good harvest is expected this year, 6.3 million tons of cereal (60% more than last year), millions will need food aid. (L.M.) (Fides Service 12/2/2004, righe 34 parole 469)