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Sudan 365: A beat for peace- Thousands gather in 15 countries to warn of worsening conflict

Celebrities and activists caution one year to prevent war in Sudan

LONDON: Thousands of activists are expected to gather at events in 15 countries – including the UK – to call on world leaders to take urgent steps to prevent a return to severe and widespread conflict in Sudan.

Today’s event ‘Sudan365’ ( heralds a year of campaigning for Sudan by a coalition of organisations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Save Darfur Coalition to mark the five year anniversary of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the civil war between North and South Sudan and comes one year ahead of a referendum that will decide the future of Sudan.

There remain many highly contentious issues yet to be resolved in Sudan and amidst increasing inter-ethnic violence in the South and continued attacks on civilians in Darfur, a real risk remains that heavy conflict may return which could destabilise the entire region and place civilians in grave danger.

Speaking at the Sudan365 event in London opposite No.10 Downing Street will be Sudanese Archbishop Daniel Deng ahead of his meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Monday 11 January.

Sudanese supermodel Alek Wek will join the hundreds of other activists in London to show her support for the campaign.

Sudan365 is also being supported by some of the world’s most famous drummers - including Phil Selway, Radiohead; Stewart Copeland, The Police; Nick Mason, Pink Floyd; Jonny Quinn, Snow Patrol; Caroline Corr; Richard Jupp, Elbow; Middle Eastern star Mohammed Mounir and Mustapha Tettey Addy who has been drumming since the 1970s.

The celebrity drummers have united to create a ‘beat for peace’ in Sudan. A film of this global beat for peace, featuring drummers from five continents, will be released to coincide with the launch of the campaign. Campaigners will also drum along at events worldwide to call on governments to take action to prevent worsening violence and ensure civilians are protected.

Sudan’s 2011 referendum will determine whether or not the country’s southern region becomes independent from the North. Experts fear that instability in the run-up to the referendum or in its aftermath could re-ignite a civil war. This in turn could cause massive human rights abuses unless international efforts are intensified to find a peaceful path through the next 12 months.

Amnesty International’s Africa Programme Deputy Director, Tawanda Hondora said:

‘We are already seeing a grave increase in inter-ethnic violence in the South and violence continues in Darfur. The coming year poses serious threats to human rights in Sudan that can be prevented if governments act now.'

CEO of the Aegis Trust, Dr James Smith said:

“The people of Sudan experienced 22 years of civil war. The conflict was finally ended by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement which required massive investment and support from the international community. We now see a real risk of this agreement breaking down and a return to devastating conflict with disastrous consequences for the people of Sudan and for the region. The UK Government must provide intensive diplomatic support over the next year.”

More than two million people lost their lives during the 22-year long civil war between the North and the South. 2009 saw a serious spike in violence in which more than 2,500 were killed and 350,000 displaced in South Sudan. In Darfur, the conflict in which hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed remains unresolved and millions continue to suffer daily in camps.

Acting President of Refugees International, Joel Charny said:

“Ideally the parties will reach agreement on a path to avoiding renewed conflict. At the same time the international community must be prepared to respond to increases in violence, attacks on civilians and new population flows, which may occur around the referendum. We recognise the real potential for renewed conflict and we must prepare ourselves to respond.”

President of FIDH (The International Federation for Human Rights), Souhayr Belhasssen said:

“We urge world leaders to pay particular attention to the human rights situation in Sudan in 2010 and to act to prevent the country from spiralling again into bloodshed, violence and impunity.”

Founder member of the band, Faithless and media project 1 Giant Leap, Jamie Catto added:

"This campaign is unprecedented. It's incredibly exciting. Thousands of drummers – from some of the most famous drummers in the world, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Snow Patrol, Elbow, to community groups – across five continents coming together to create a global beat for peace in Sudan. The next 365 days will be critical for the people of Sudan. And this global drumbeat is a cry for positive action from world leaders to prevent conflict from returning."

Activists are calling on world leaders to dramatically increase their engagement to:
·Provide intensive and coherent diplomatic support to Northern and Southern Sudanese parties on unresolved issues such as wealth sharing, borders and security, and legislation for the referendum
·Increase international monitoring and reporting on human rights violations throughout Sudan in the run-up to the April elections and referendum, and support measures to protect civilians from potential violence related to these events
·Push the United Nations Security Council to strengthen the civilian protection mandate of the Sudan peacekeeping force (UNMIS) by increasing its presence in remote and volatile areas and by rapidly deploying its personnel to conflict-prone areas.

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