UN tries to rebuild confidence after deadly attack at displaced camp in Darfur

27 August 2008

The head of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) set up meetings today with the residents of a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in a bid to ease tensions after dozens of people were shot dead there earlier this week during clashes with Sudanese security forces.

Rodolphe Adada, who is also the AU-UN Joint Special Representative for Darfur, directed that a high-level delegation from the mission hold a series of meetings today with IDPs and other concerned parties, UNAMID reports.

Another UNAMID assessment mission to Kalma camp has been scheduled to try to rebuild confidence among the camp’s estimated population of 80,000 IDPs. The mission comprises police officers, military advisers, human rights staff and civil affairs personnel.

UNAMID said today it has obtained concrete evidence that 31 IDPs were killed on Monday when Sudanese military and police forces raided the camp, which is situated in South Darfur state.

The Sudanese forces had entered the camp to execute a search warrant for illegal weapons and drugs and said they only returned fire after gunshots were directed at them from behind a human shield of women and children.

Yesterday UNAMID issued a statement condemning what it called the “excessive, disproportionate use of lethal force” by Sudanese security forces, noting that those forces were heavily armed while the residents carried sticks, knives and spears.

“While the alleged presence of weapons in the Kalma camp is a real security concern for the Government of Sudan authorities, the actions taken to address it are a clear violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement,” UNAMID stated.

“UNAMID strongly condemns the excessive, disproportionate use of lethal force by the Government of Sudan security forces against civilians, which violated their human rights and resulted in unacceptable casualties.”

However, the statement also stressed “that the presence of weapons voids the status of IDP camps granted to them by international humanitarian law and exhorts the IDP community and its leaders and representatives to ensure that their camps are, and remain, weapons-free zones.”

The residents have told the mission today that the continued armed presence maintained by Sudanese Government security forces is contributing to tensions at Kalma, one of many camps across Darfur, where rebels have been fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen since 2003.

In his latest regular report to the Security Council on the work of UNAMID, published today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced deep concern at the continuing violence across Darfur and its humanitarian consequences for the civilian population.

“I urge all parties to recognize the urgent need to end the suffering of innocent civilians and immediately commit themselves to an unconditional ceasefire,” he wrote.

Mr. Ban stressed that although more UNAMID units will be deployed in the coming months, they “cannot be a substitute for a political process. Ultimately, the crisis in Darfur can be resolved only through political negotiations and a comprehensive and inclusive peace agreement.”

Meanwhile, the newly appointed Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, Djibril Bassolé, arrives in the region tomorrow to take up his duties.

Mr. Bassolé is slated to arrive in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state and the headquarters of UNAMID, and then will travel soon to Nyala and El Geneina, the capitals of South Darfur and West Darfur respectively.


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UN mission in Darfur condemns ‘excessive’ use of force at displaced camp

The joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) today strongly condemned what it called the “excessive, disproportionate use of lethal force” by Sudanese security forces against civilians during a raid inside a displaced persons’ camp yesterday.