Food riot at refugee camp in Darfur kills one, injuries six others – UN

4 September 2008

One person was killed and six others were injured during a food riot inside a camp that houses Chadian refugees in the Sudanese region of Darfur, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports.

The agency said the incident occurred on Tuesday morning at the camp in Um Shalaya, about 70 kilometres southeast of El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state.

Hundreds of stick-bearing women demonstrated noisily against a temporary reduction in the availability of sorghum, which is widely consumed in both Chad and Sudan, because of logistical problems. Continued insecurity has made it difficult to safely transport food from El Geneina to the camp at Um Shalaya.

UNHCR reports that some members of the crowd took on local police and assaulted one of them, despite efforts by aid workers at the scene to calm the refugees. The police fired warning shots in the air and, in the confusion, a 26-year-old male refugee was hit in the chest and later died.

Three refugees, a 28-year-old man and two men in their 20s, are now receiving treatment in El Geneina, while an injured policeman is being treated locally.

“The incident is very regrettable and first and foremost we express our sympathies to the persons and families of both the refugee community and the police who were injured,” said Chrysantus Ache, UNHCR’s representative in Sudan.

“We urge calm and restraint by all parties,” Mr. Ache said. “We are currently conducting a proper investigation into the incident with the Government and we hope that, together with the refugees, we can quickly reach an understanding on how to avoid such incidents in the camp in the future.”

About 6,600 refugees live in Um Shalaya, with new asylum-seekers arriving each month as they flee violence in their home areas of eastern Chad, where rebels have been fighting Government forces for months.

UNHCR reports that an estimated 50,000 refugees, mostly Chadian, have settled in border areas of Darfur, which has been beset by its own deadly conflict between rebels, Government forces and allied militiamen since 2003.

This week’s food riot has occurred amid mounting UN concern about repeated attacks against humanitarian convoys throughout Darfur, a vast and impoverished region on Sudan’s western flank.

The joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission to the region, known as UNAMID, reported that a World Food Programme (WFP) mobile truck was carjacked yesterday near Moraya, which is about 55 kilometres northwest of Nyala, the South Darfur state capital.

The truck’s drivers were robbed of their money and mobile phones, and the whereabouts of the WFP staff members and the vehicle are unknown, although the tracking device indicated the truck was heading in the general direction of the Jebel Marra area.

Three vehicles belonging to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) were also ambushed yesterday by unknown gunmen as the convoy returned from a visit to Yara in South Darfur.

A patrol from UNAMID was deployed to rescue the members of the convoy, which included a delegation from Khartoum and the head of UNICEF’s office in Nyala. Two vehicles were rescued while the third reached Nyala with its passengers unharmed but looted of their property.


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