US ramps up civilian task force in Sudan in preparation for referendum


A team from the newly formed US Civilian Response Corps is building a significant presence across the southern half of the African country.

There is a possibility civil war could break out between the Christian south and Muslim north after the referendum in January which will decide by a simple majority whether southern Sudan becomes the world’s newest sovereign state

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph Ambassador Robert Loftis, the Civilian Response Corps chief, who is directly answerable to the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said he was sending teams around the region to “observe, report and monitor”.

Southern Sudan produces 480,000 barrels-a-day of oil and if an agreement on sharing the wealth is not amicably resolved with the north the country could return to the civil war that ended in 2005 after 21 years and the loss of almost two million lives.

Ambassador Loftis said the presence of his team will be able to call in “larger organisations to come in and help” to prevent bloodshed.

“If they vote for independence we will be looking for what sort of assistance we can provide to help them get it off to as good a start as they as they can. Or if the vote is for continued national unity what do you need to do to reconcile the north and the south.”

Asked if the US presence would provide a block against belligerence from the north he said: “It is hoped the presence of international observers will preclude violence or interference in referendum. There is never any guarantee on those but usually it is a help.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, warned earlier this month that the world risked “sleepwalking” into a humanitarian disaster as the referendum could lead four million southerners living in the north being forced out.

The Civilian Response Corps has a budget of $100 million and employs a core of 300 people with another 1,000 on standby for operations. It was set up in 2008 with the aim to work alongside the military to stabilise war-torn countries and rebuild nations

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