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NGO says armed groups still active in the south

[Sudan] Klaus Stieglitz of German NGO Sign of Hope distributes books to children in Old Fangak, southern Sudan.
Klaus Stieglitz of the German NGO, Sign of Hope, distributes books to children in Old Fangak, southern Sudan. Seventy-five percent of the estimated 1.4 million children between sevena and 14 years old in the south do not have access to education. (IRIN)

Armed groups are still mistreating people in southern Sudan, despite January’s peace agreement between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), a humanitarian group said on Monday.

"Even after the signature of the comprehensive peace agreement, civilians are subjected to excessive taxation when they enter and leave militia-held territory," said Klaus Stieglitz, a commissioner for human rights at Sign of Hope, a German NGO.

While on a fact-finding trip to southern Sudan, Stieglitz said: "The militia has used the civilian population as a source of personal aggrandisement. This taxation continues to place yet another hardship on a people who are struggling to rebuild their lives after suffering war and displacement."

A Sudanese 40-year-old mother of seven told the NGO that "when you go to Fom [a town in Upper Nile also known as New Fangak] to buy clothes or soap they [militias] tax you as you return.”

"If you have no money they take your property," she added.

Another Sign of Hope interviewee, John Kok, claimed that he had been forced to pay militiamen 39,000 Sudanese pounds (US $16) out the 80,000 Sudanese pounds ($32) he had got from the sale of bull in Fom market on 14 February.

The 3-man NGO team, headed by Stieglitz, documented cases of civilians, allegedly abducted by militias in 2001, being prevented from rejoining their families.

On Saturday, the Sign of Hope officials presented some of the allegations of mistreatment to the Civilian Protection Monitoring Team (CPMT) in Rumbek, the designated capital of southern Sudan.

The US-led CPMT is charged with monitoring and investigating attacks against civilians in the area.

Sign of Hope urged the Sudanese government, the SPLM/A and the international community to ensure implementation of the peace agreement, which calls for the cessation of activities by "other armed groups".

According to the NGO, such groups must choose to join either the government or the SPLM/A.

During their 5-day trip to southern Sudan, the NGO representatives distributed humanitarian assistance to those in need in the regions of Upper Nile and northern Bahr el-Ghazal.

The group airlifted more than 5,000 kg of school materials to Old Fangak, a town in Upper Nile State. The items included school books, pencils, blackboards, chalks and building materials such as timber and iron sheets. Another 4,300 kg of relief items, mainly food and blankets, was given to people in the town of Gordhim, in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal

Sign of Hope is a German inter-denominational organisation for human rights and humanitarian assistance.

The SPLM/A and the Sudanese government signed a peace agreement on 9 January, ending 21 years of civil war in the region. The conflict is estimated to have left some two million people dead and more than four million others displaced.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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