Is Sudan heading toward a worsening civil war?

The Sudanese government on Saturday, Dec. 3, blocked the U.N's relief coordinator, Valerie Amos, from visiting Khartoum, where she planned to press Sudanese officials to grant greater access to U.N. relief workers in conflict zones in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

The visit, which was planned well advance, was cancelled after Sudanese authorities said that the top official responsible for addressing humanitarian issues was not available to meet with her because the cabinet had been dissolved.

The cancellation comes amid concern that Sudan is heading towards a worsening civil war, with hardliners pressing for a military crackdown on resistance elements in the country, and a coalition of rebel groups forming an alliance to try to overthrow the government of President Omar al-Bashir.

"Civil war is spreading in Sudan," the International Crisis Group warned in a recent report on Sudan. "With hundreds of thousands of people displaced...the growing war on multiple fronts poses serious dangers for the country, for its future relationship with the Republic of South Sudan and for the stability of the region as a whole."

The region has been in a state of turmoil since neighboring South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan. After relinquishing control over the south last summer, Khartoum's forces moved quickly to restore control over the disputed region of Abyei that straddles the north and south, and launched offensives against the restive South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions.

The United Nations, which was required to leave the region after the referendum, has not been allowed to monitor what's happening in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Amos's visit was part of an ongoing effort to ensure that relief can be delivered to those displaced by rising violence.

A spokeswoman for Amos, Amanda Pitt, told Turtle Bay that Amos is "extremely concerned" about the plight of displaced civilians in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and planned to press the government to ensure relief agencies could "reach the people" affected by the violence.

Pitt said that Amos was at the international airport in Istanbul, Turkey, en route to Sudan when she was informed that there was no appropriate official available to meet her and that she should not come. "I know that she definitely wants to go and is working" with the Sudanese government and the U.N. team in Sudan to "sort out another date," said Pitt.

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