One Million at "Imminent RIsk" in Darfur, Says U.S.
(Nairobi, March 12, 2004) One million
people are "at imminent risk of life and livelihood" in
Sudan's western region of Darfur, due a lack of civil order
and the "refusal of local and national authorities to permit
unrestricted access for humanitarian workers", according to
the US government.
A statement released on Tuesday said the US viewed the
deepening humanitarian crisis in Darfur with grave concern.
Particularly threatening were the actions of the
"government-supported militias, known as the Janjawid, who
continue to attack and burn undefended villages, murdering
and raping the inhabitants and forcing survivors into
desperate flight to garrison towns" or neighbouring Chad, it
An estimated 110,000 refugees have crossed the Chadian
border since last June, while about 700,000 have been
displaced by Arab militia attacks and government bombing
campaigns within the Darfur region.
The government has said the attacks are part of its strategy
to "crush" two rebel groups operating in Darfur, but
observers say the attacks are deliberately targeting
civilians from the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawah communities,
thereby clearing vast areas of land for Arab nomads. A
growing number of voices are referring to the strategy as
The US government had offered to facilitate talks
specifically aimed at resolving the issue of providing
humanitarian aid, it said in a statement. It stood by the
offer but the government of Sudan had yet to respond, it
Humanitarian access to Darfur has improved slightly in
recent weeks, with up to 30 percent of the region's 700,000
displaced now accessible, up from 15 percent in January.
Last month, the Sudanese government claimed that the war in
Darfur was over, saying it had defeated the region's two
rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice
and Equality Movement. Both groups rejected the claim and
launched an immediate offensive.
Meanwhile, there are daily reports of militias attacking
civilians with impunity and also stealing much-needed aid
provided by the UN and other agencies.
The elders of one village in northern Darfur were so scared
of militia attacks that they asked UN staff not to deliver
aid to them as it would increase their chances of being
targeted for looting and harassment.
Locals have also reported to UN staff that they feel like
"prisoners" in their own villages, because of the systematic
abuse they are subjected to by Arab nomads, who take over
their land to accommodate their camels and cattle. There
have also been reports of hostage taking, with villagers
having to ransom civilians to obtain their release from
unlawful custody, and having to pay bribes to gain access to
their own farmland.
In Kabkabiyah, northern Darfur, 60 percent of farmers have
reportedly lost their crops, and as a result not managed to
keep sufficient seed supplies for the next planting seasons,
the UN reported this week. Livestock have also been killed
and irrigation systems and orchards destroyed, with
production set to decrease by 60 percent.
The US has appealed to the Sudanese government and
opposition leaders to ensure the safety and unhindered
movement of relief workers and commodities into the area;
immediately enter into negotiations to bring about a
humanitarian ceasefire; and to act "decisively and
transparently" to disarm and bring under responsible
authority all irregular forces, particularly the Janjawid,
In a separate development, the UN refugee agency chief Ruud
Lubbers is currently visiting the refugees in Chad. So far,
problems finding suitable sites with access to water have
meant that only 7,700 of the refugees have been relocated
from the insecure and extremely arid border region - where
they are frequently attacked by militias - to three inland
camps at Farchana, Touloum and Kounoungo.
IRIN is a
United Nations humanitarian information unit. This article
may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations
or its agencies. All materials in this article copyright by
the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
2004. This article first appeared, and can be found, on
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