Joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur steps up presence at troubled camp

3 September 2008

The joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur is stepping up its presence in and around a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) where dozens of people were shot dead last week during clashes with Sudanese security forces.

The mission, known as UNAMID, reported yesterday that its police will be present at the Kalma camp in South Darfur state until a joint force of mission police and military officers can be permanently deployed. Daily military patrols by UNAMID have also been reinforced.

The presence was stepped up after a UNAMID patrol in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, observed an increased Sudanese police presence near Kalma, with more tents being erected on Monday at a location about five kilometres from the camp.

A sheikh from the camp also told the mission that Sudanese Government forces were planning another attack on the camp in the near future, and that tensions were mounting among Kalma’s residents – estimated at around 80,000 – as a result.

UNAMID has said it has evidence that at least 31 people were killed at Kalma on 25 August when Sudanese military and police forces raided the camp to execute a search warrant for illegal weapons and drugs.

The Sudanese forces said they only returned fire after gunshots were directed at them from behind a human shield of women and children, but UNAMID issued a statement saying excessive and disproportionate force had been used given the camp 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.”

UNAMID Deputy Joint Special Representative Henry Anyidoho visited Kalma today to assess the situation and to meet with mission officials in civil affairs, human rights and humanitarian affairs.

Meanwhile, the mission reported that its radio unit this week began a one-month journalism training and capacity-building programme for 10 local radio journalists in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state.

The first in a series of planned courses to be conducted for local journalists in El Fasher and Khartoum between now and December, the training course aims to develop the capacity for a fully-fledged UNAMID radio broadcast operation for Darfur.

 

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