DARFUR: The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, on Sunday continued his tour of Sudan, visiting the south of the country, where he vowed to redouble efforts to make countries honour their pledges to provide cash aid to a region in the grip of famine. “Cash today is better than cash tomorrow and we can help save lots of lives,” he said. The south of Africa’s biggest country has been ravaged by war since 1983, when an army mutiny spiralled into a conflict between the Arab-dominated northern government and black African southerners pushing for a greater say in how their country is ruled. A peace deal signed in January ended that conflict and observers say it also holds out hope of a solution for the war in Darfur.

Mr Annan on Sunday met John Garang, leader of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, at his stronghold in the southern town of Rumbek. Arriving at Rumbek’s airstrip, Mr Annan said: “Let us work together to rebuild. You have suffered for too long.” The secretary general was greeted by cheering crowds and a brass band, but also a warning of the desperate need for aid in the south — a small group of children held up a banner reading: “Kofi, no food, hunger imminent.” Mr Annan was given a traditional gift of white bulls. The secretary general said he would offer them to needy widows and orphans.

The war claimed an estimated 2 million lives and held back development in southern Sudan, one of the most isolated and backward corners of Africa. Poor rains last year made for a meagre harvest, and there are fears of widespread hunger in the coming months. Families driven away by war are beginning to head back to their former homes, adding to the strain on resources. Donors have promised $4.5m (£2.4m) to bring aid and development to the south, but aid workers say a shortage of funds means many in the south will go hungry this year.

After talks with Mr Annan, Mr Garang said: “The Oslo donors conference made a lot of promises. “We were happy with the pledges but they are not helping us now as our people would deserve.

“There are people actually who have starved to death and the UN food pipeline is virtually empty. So we are asking the secretary-general to please do something about it.” —Dawn/The Guardian News Service

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