UN refugee agency chief urges more security in Chad to deal with Darfur spill-over

UN refugee agency chief urges more security in Chad to deal with Darfur spill-over

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The head of the United Nations refugee agency today called for improved security in eastern Chad, including an international presence along the border with Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region, after armed men on horseback are estimated to have killed more than 200 people in the past week in attacks on remote villages.

In a related development, a senior United Nations peacekeeping official today left for talks with the Sudanese Government in Khartoum aimed at halting the killings in Darfur, where scores of tens of thousands of people are estimated to have died as a result of the conflict between Government forces, allied militias and rebels seeking greater autonomy. More than 2 million others have been displaced.

“We are deeply alarmed at the brutality in eastern Chad, which is already struggling to cope with more than 218,000 Sudanese refugees from neighbouring Darfur,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres in Geneva.

“We have warned for months that the Darfur conflict threatens to destabilize the entire region and we support calls for an international presence in eastern Chad and stronger Chadian efforts to maintain security in the area,” he said. In August, UN Security Council Resolution 1706 called for the deployment of a multi-dimensional UN presence to Chad and the neighbouring Central African Republic.

UNHCR teams in south-eastern Chad are still gathering information about the attacks, but initial reports indicate that as many as 220 people have been killed and dozens wounded. Most of the injured are still in or around their villages because they have no transportation to bring them to the closest health centres in Kerfi village and Goz Beida.

A UNHCR team travelled on Wednesday to the Kerfi area and residents told the team the attacks began last Saturday and had so far affected the villages of Bandicao, Badia, Neweya, Kerfi, Agourtoulou, Abougsoul and Djorlo. There are also reports that Tamadjour and Loubitegue village were attacked on Wednesday.

In the past year, an estimated 63,000 Chadians have been displaced by inter-ethnic violence in eastern Chad. UNHCR also cares for 15,000 refugees from Darfur in Djabal camp, near Goz Beida, as well as for 18,000 refugees in Goz Amir camp, near Koukou. In total, UNHCR and its partners assist 218,000 refugees from Darfur in 12 camps in eastern Chad.

While in Khartoum, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi will also discuss the UN’s support package to the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which is trying to keep the peace in Darfur as Sudanese officials continue to reject a force of blue helmets.

From Khartoum, Mr. Annabi will travel to Addis Ababa for the 13 November consultations on Darfur and then proceed to Brussels, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

In another development, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, will travel to Khartoum and Darfur later this month as part of his final mission to Africa, Mr. Dujarric said.

Mr. Egeland is scheduled to start the 10-day regional visit tomorrow in Nairobi, Kenya. He is then expected to travel to Juba, in southern Sudan, at the request of the parties to the ongoing peace talks between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and to Kampala, Uganda.

While in Juba, Mr. Egeland has indicated his willingness to meet with the LRA senior leadership in the event of a significant humanitarian development such as a transfer of non-combatants, wounded and/or sick civilians into the care of specialized humanitarian agencies, the spokesman said.