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UN mission reports calm as Sudanese President visits strife-torn Darfur region

UN mission reports calm as Sudanese President visits strife-torn Darfur region

Fighting in North Darfur has displaced hundreds of households (file photo)
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) earlier this week, visited the war-ravaged Darfur region today, accompanied by the top United Nations official for Sudan among other members of the diplomatic corps.

During the visit to the capital of North Darfur, El Fasher, where the hybrid African Union-UN peacekeeping operation in the region (UNAMID) is based, the President addressed the local population at a rally.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan Ashraf Qazi arrived in El Fasher with Mr. Bashir, who the ICC has issued an arrest warrant against for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the western region of Sudan.

Since the ICC made its decision, several humanitarian agencies, aiding some 4.7 million people in Darfur, have been barred from working in the region by Khartoum.

“The Government of Sudan''s order suspending 16 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will have devastating implications for the citizens of Darfur,” said a joint statement issued by six UN agencies, including UN Children''s Fund (UNICEF) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“Aid operations in North Sudan, the largest humanitarian emergency in the world costing over $2 billion annually, will be irrevocably damaged,” read the statement.

Meanwhile UNAMID reported that the security situation in Darfur remains relatively calm with the exception of an increase in banditry in El Geneina, West Darfur.

The UNAMID force and police continue to conduct their normal activities throughout the region and over the past 24 hours the blue helmets conducted 25 confidence-building patrols, seven escort convoys, 11 night patrols covering 40 villages/IDP camps, and 87 police patrols in and around camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

On 6 March, UNAMID Police Commissioner Micheal Fryer led a night patrol to Zam Zam IDP camp, where he met the Umda, a traditional leader.

An estimated 300,000 people have died in Darfur, either through direct combat or because of disease, malnutrition or reduced life expectancy, over the past five years in Darfur, where rebels have been fighting Government forces and allied Arab militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, since 2003.