We cannot turn our backs on the tragedy unfolding in Sudan

<span>A damaged army tank on the street in Omdurman, Sudan. </span><span>Photograph: El Tayeb Siddig/Reuters</span>
A damaged army tank on the street in Omdurman, Sudan. Photograph: El Tayeb Siddig/Reuters

Re Nesrine Malik’s article (For a full year, the bodies have piled up in Sudan – and still the world looks away, 15 April), in 2002 I was the chief of staff to the joint monitoring mission (JMM) in Sudan’s Nuba mountains, in South Kordofan. The JMM was charged with overseeing a ceasefire agreement through dialogue, information and diligent investigation of actions that threatened the agreement. Two years later I was attached to the African Union (AU) in Darfur, attempting to pause the conflict there and allow dialogue between the conflict parties and hopefully bring a peaceful resolution.

The JMM successfully achieved stability and normality in the Nuba, whereas in Darfur the conflict, although reduced, continued to simmer and displace people, mostly internally into IDP camps. The different outcomes for the two conflicts 20 years ago was due to the quality of endeavour applied by the JMM and the AU with the local populations, local officials, the UN and NGOs to achieve a result that satisfied all local communities.

As in Darfur in 2004, it appears that today in Sudan the world is happy to sit on its hands and leave the UN and NGOs to plough a lonely furrow while the RSF militia and the army systematically kill, rape and destroy.

Less than 70 years ago, Sudan was administered by the UK. We, the UK, need to lead a muscular intervention to get food and medical support into Sudan and assist the desperate people there even if it means having to face up to either of the two protagonists.
RD Symonds (Lt Col, retired)
Finstock, Oxfordshire

• Having worked in Sudan as a teacher during the 1970s, experiencing the warmth and friendliness of Sudanese people, I feel I share some of the pain that Nesrine Malik expresses in her analysis of the tragedy in the country.

Her analysis of the forces tearing Sudan apart is perceptive, but I think it is important to remember that the roots of this conflict may be seen in the way Britain administered the country as a colonial possession in the early part of the 20th century. By reinforcing the distinction between the northern (Muslim) and the southern (Christian) people in order to protect colonial east Africa from the spread of Islam and, upon independence, allowing the Arab north to force its demands on the south, we triggered a civil war. It has raged more or less continuously since 1956, apart from a few years of peace in the 1970s, which I was fortunate enough to enjoy.

So we cannot wipe our hands of this tragedy, but should recognise our country’s role in what is now happening.
Bryan Hopkins

• I write in praise of Nesrine Malik. She is an eloquent voice of understanding and compassion. Whether she writes of Gaza or Sudan or other forgotten, conflict-ridden parts of the developing world, her words conjure up the most human and painful elements of these conflicts. The suffering, the loss, the endless shifting sands of war and displacement, and the courage and resolve and the humanity of the dispossessed.

If we cannot see that those considered the least among us are as fully worthy as those blessed by material wealth, then our humanity is suspect and our destiny is doomed.
Richard Owen
Mandara, Harare

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