A Preventable Famine

Sudan has repeatedly made headlines in the past 10 years, as devastating famines took their deadly toll. But when Sudan returned to the media spotlight this summer, it was for a different reason, as U.S. cruise missiles leveled a factory in Khartoum. U.S. officials recommended the action in retaliation for this summer’s bombing of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Sudanese officials deny the charges, as well as U.S. allegations that the factory was owned by the mastermind behind terrorism in neighboring Kenya and Tanzania. The factory only made medicines, they insist, and claim 80 percent of the country’s pharmaceutical supply was lost in the attack.

Famine victim and terrorism sponsor: It seems unlikely that one country could play such different roles. Sudan’s size--it is the biggest country in all of Africa--offers one explanation of how one country could contain both currents. It is the southern Sudanese, mostly black Africans, who are suffering starvation. Arabic Africans in the north, who make up Sudan’s government and its allies, are the ones accused of terrorism.

More conclusive than Sudan’s size, though, is the nature of its famine. Again and again, the pressure of war has made it impossible for southern Sudanese communities to withstand their harsh environment. This pressure includes the bombing of feeding centers and other humanitarian targets and a blockade of relief flights by government forces; slave raids by militia suspected of being allies of the government; and rebel soldiers’ diversion of food aid from the famine victims who depend upon them for protection.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1998
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