, KHARTOUM, Aug 29 – Rebels in Sudan’s war-torn South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by fighting, called Wednesday for aid to be sent in through South Sudan and Ethiopia.
The request – which the rebels said they will formally make next week – comes as an international aid plan falls behind schedule despite warnings about the humanitarian situation in the two states along Sudan’s southern border.
“We will ask for the cross-border operation from South Sudan and Ethiopia,” Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, spokesman for the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), told AFP.
He said the Sudanese government “is not respecting” a memorandum of understanding signed on August 5.
Both the government and rebels signed similar memorandums with the African Union, Arab League and UN to allow for humanitarian access throughout South Kordofan and Blue Nile – including in rebel-held areas.
The signing came six months after the three organisations submitted their proposal to Khartoum.
The UN has expressed concern for months about a worsening humanitarian situation in the war zone, where Khartoum cited security concerns in tightly restricting the operations of foreign aid agencies.
Lodi accused the government of “delaying tactics” and said the rebels would officially request the cross-border operation at a meeting between the signatories next Tuesday.
He said the rebels are still “committed to the MOU” and to working with the three foreign organisations.
Ali Adam, a director general of Sudan’s Humanitarian Aid Commission, confirmed on Monday that implementation of the memorandum was behind schedule. He said the required planning meetings had not yet occurred.
Adam could not immediately be reached Wednesday to comment on SPLM-N’s cross-border aid proposal.
A senior ruling party official has said the government is committed to allowing relief into the war zone.
A United Nations source said the UN “has to respect the sovereignty of nation states” and could not enter a country without its permission.
But the source, declining to be named, said the UN “does understand why some humanitarian organisations, seeing what is happening… may wish to pursue” a cross-border operation.
“We will continue to work with the government to facilitate humanitarian assistance into SPLM-North areas under the memorandum of understanding that was signed with the tripartite,” the UN source told AFP.
Ethnic minority insurgents of the SPLM-N were allies of southern rebels during Sudan’s 22-year civil war, which ended in a 2005 peace deal and South Sudan’s independence in July last year.
Sudan accuses South Sudan of supporting the SPLM-N, a charge which analysts believe despite denials by the government in Juba.