More than 150,000 starving people in southeastern Sudan have been denied food and medicine due to a Sudanese government ban on flights over the embattled south.

The U.S. government currently gives aid to Sudan, but all humanitarian supplies are distributed through Operation Lifeline Sudan, which is controlled through the National Islamic Front's (NIF) Khartoum government in the north (CT, Aug. 9, 1999, p. 29).

NIF is suspected of withholding food in order to starve into submission thousands of refugees in the formerly autonomous south who have been forced from tribal homelands.

U.S. advocates fear the relief-flight ban attributed to fighting between southern factions is an excuse to keep food from the 4.3 million people of southern Sudan who have been displaced by the Khartoum regime's efforts to control the south's oil.

In June, the Senate passed the Foreign Appropriation Operations Bill to redirect food for distribution in the south specifically to members of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement, a group of rebels.

The NIF has come under increasing pressure from the U.S. since July. After the Senate's call for reform of Operation Lifeline Sudan, President Clinton announced he will appoint a special envoy to report on human-rights violations in Sudan. Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice says that the NIF's support of slavery, religious persecution, terrorism, and civil war make Sudan one of the world's worst rights abusers.

"Christian activists played an enormous role in drawing the attention of the world to the slavery, genocide, and abuse in Sudan," says U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.). "Now we need to continue to act as a catalyst for the IGAD peace process."

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