UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
SUDAN: Deaths condemned, SPLA denies responsibility
NAIROBI, 6 April (IRIN) - There has been widespread international condemnation over the deaths last week of three Sudanese government officials and a Sudanese Red Crescent worker, blamed on the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).
The US reiterated its "strong" concern over the humanitarian situation in southern Sudan, and urged the SPLA and the government "not to allow this incident to interfere in any way with efforts of the international community, or the parties themselves, to provide relief assistance to Sudan's vulnerable populations". The US, echoing a call by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), called on the SPLA to permit a thorough investigation of the incident.
The UN also condemned the incident. "It is particularly disturbing that they died despite numerous appeals to their captors to ensure their physical safety....the deaths illustrate yet again the tragic and urgent need to protect those who are trying to aid victims of conflicts," a spokesman for the UN Secretary-General said on Monday.
A press statement issued by the ICRC last Thursday said the organisation held the SPLA/M accountable for the deaths. The four had been accompanying an ICRC team in southern Sudan and had been detained by the SPLA since 18 February when they inadvertently strayed into SPLA/M territory near Bentiu.
The SPLA/M, for its part, denied responsibility. In a statement received by IRIN on Tuesday, it maintained the deceased were killed on 31 March "in crossfire during an attempted rescue operation by the government of Sudan forces". "These officials were not ICRC liaison officers but definitely on a spying mission. This is why the government of Sudan wanted to forcibly rescue them," it said.
It blamed the ICRC for failing to notify the SPLA/M authorities when the officials would travel by road from the government-held town of Bentiu to Pariang. The statement added that the ICRC had violated agreed procedures not to transport non-ICRC personnel.
However, the Sudanese government claimed the rebel movement's intention had "all along clearly been the elimination of the hostages". Sudan's Foreign Minister Mustafa Uthman Isma'il told a news conference the government had formed a high level committee to revise all agreements reached with the rebels in the humanitarian field.
In another statement, the government said it found it "strange" the international humanitarian agencies did not exercise the "necessary pressure to compel the movement to release the whole of the abducted group".
Meanwhile, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared a unilateral ceasefire in all parts of southern Sudan upon expiry of the current truce on 15 April, Sudanese television reported on Monday.
"We call on the rebel movement to show its seriousness towards the realisation of peace and to reciprocate to protect the lives and property of citizens and the international officials working in the UN organisations," he told parliament.
Date: Tue, 6 Apr 1999 16:41:21 +0300 (EAT) Subject: SUDAN: Deaths condemned, SPLA denies responsibility  From: IRIN - English <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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