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Archbishop: Sudan more serious as days go by

Archbishop of Sudan, Daniel Deng, with the Archbishop of Canterbury

Thursday 7th October 2010

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams and The Archbishop of Sudan, Daniel Deng, have warned that Sudan risks a return to civil war and poverty unless the international community steps in to ensure that a referendum on independence for the south goes ahead as planned.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and Sudan spoke to assembled press at Lambeth Palace today about the situation in Sudan as the country approaches the final stage of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

Click link on the right to listen to the press briefing [24Mb]

During the briefing, Dr Williams spoke of growing concerns about how the referendum, the central part of the CPA, due to take place on January 9 2011, will work in the north/south Sudanese border area. 

He expressed fears of a humanitarian crisis if up to two million people of southern descent living in the north are forced out as a result of the vote: "a great many of the things that should have been done in preparation have not been done".

"The situation in Sudan is no less critical than it was several months ago and, if anything, gets more serious as days go by. This is not the time at all to ease up the pressure that our government can give."

Making reference to the fact that Britain takes over the presidency of the UN Security Council in November, the Archbishop said "There is a good opportunity for Britain to show leadership", adding "I would like to see and I have confidence I will see our government stepping up to the plate and do the sort of monitoring that is needed in Sudan."

He said that international pressure was needed "to avoid the sort of disaster we all fear", echoing an earlier comment made during a BBC interview, in which he said "this could put Darfur in the shade if it really explodes".

Archbishop Daniel Deng, who Dr Williams described as a "colossally effective advocate for Sudan", spoke first hand about the situation on the ground in Sudan, the continuing insecurity and violence faced by many local communities and the role of the Church in maintaining pressure domestically and internationally to work for a just and sustainable peace.

Dr Deng said: "I think the international community has an obligation to make sure the referendum is done" and appealed to the international community to "support the people of Sudan, not to allow them to go back to war".  "A vote for southern independence could lead to millions of people being pushed back to the region, prompting a humanitarian crisis", he said, adding: "We want the international community to be ready for that.".

The briefing also looked forward to and reflected on the week of advocacy events the Church has been involved in with government and NGOs and to Archbishop Deng's forthcoming visit to New York to meet with the UN Secretary General.

Earlier in the day, the Archbishop of Canterbury expressed his 'deep concerns' that Sudan would slip back towards civil war, during an interview with the BBC Today programme.  Click link on the right to listen to the interview.

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