Sudanese rebel leader asks U.S. to lift aid ban on areas he rules Garang doesn't want to await civil war's end before rebuilding south

July 09, 1996|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

The leader of Sudan's rebel army appealed yesterday to the United States to lift a ban on development aid for the part of the war-torn country he controls.

The aid ban was automatically triggered by the Khartoum government's 1989 military coup and its 1993 addition to the State Department's list of nations supporting international terrorism. The ban's blanket scope affects not only the areas ruled by the fundamentalist National Islamic Front (NIF) government but the southern third of the country held by the rebels who are fighting for a democratic, secular society.

"We are unfairly treated under the law," said John Garang, in Washington to press for a partial lifting of the ban. "We didn't overthrow any democratic government. We are not on the list of terrorist states. Somehow we need to be exempt."

Garang, who arrived after spending three weeks lobbying for development aid in Europe, said he was appealing to the international community to help southern Sudan "in a major way."

"Civil society is traumatized," said the leader of the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, which has been fighting a civil war for 13 years. "We want civil society to catch their breaths, to reorganize.

"We don't propose to wait for peace in order to start development. We want to start development now."

He faces a tough lobbying challenge in Washington. Normally, before U.S. development assistance is supplied, aid officials have to be assured of reasonable stability and security -- difficult conditions to meet amid a civil war. And an African expert with the House International Relations Committee said there was no sign of any speedy legislative movement toward partially ending the ban.

The Sudanese People's Liberation Movement, the civilian wing of the rebel army, earlier this year held a convention, attended by 60 international observers, on strengthening civil administration in rebel-held areas, known as "New Sudan."

"We are starting to develop our vision of society. We are focusing on peace within the context of the New Sudan," he said, noting that the rebel army and traditional political opposition groups last year formed the National Democratic Alliance to prepare to replace the government in Khartoum.

The alliance agreed on formation of a democratic, secular society, with national unity maintained for four years, after which the southern Sudanese would be able to vote for independence if federation had not fulfilled their aspirations.

"We are quite advanced in our preparations," said Garang. "We have a peace program -- but no space to put it with the NIF in power."

After multiple, failed negotiations with the government, a peace agreement remains "an option that is unlikely -- but within the realm of possibility," he said. It would, he added, have to involve "co-existence," with Islamic rule limited to the north of the country while the south would be democratic and secular.

"The two are nonnegotiable," said Garang.

The rebel leader praised the Clinton administration for trying to pressure the Sudanese government to abandon its support of terrorism. Last month the United States expelled a Sudanese diplomat after Khartoum refused to extradite three suspects in an assassination attempt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

But Garang added: "We would appreciate [U.S.] assistance to the part of the country that is New Sudan. Development can lead to peace."

Garang briefed the editorial board of The Sun yesterday after publication last month of a series of three articles detailing how two Sun reporters traveled illegally to Sudan to buy -- and free -- two young slaves. He said the Sun series, which has been reprinted overseas, was "helping sensitize the international community [to the civil war in Sudan], especially on the issue of slavery."

Pub Date: 7/09/96

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