The joint African Union-United Nations mission in Sudan’s Darfur region said today it is deeply concerned over an escalation in violence that has led to the reported burning of villages and the displacement of large numbers of civilians, and called for unhindered access to the affected area.
The mission, known as UNAMID, has received reports of looting, arson and civilian casualties as a result of the violence over the past several days in the vicinity of Um Gunya, located approximately 50 kilometres south-east of the South Darfur capital of Nyala.
The violence has also led to the arrival of newly displaced populations into the Al Salam and Kalma camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), the mission said in a press statement.
“Peacekeepers have attempted to access the affected areas on several occasions, but have been denied passage by the authorities,” it stated.
“UNAMID calls upon the authorities to allow the mission unhindered and immediate access to these areas, so that it can carry out its core activity for the protection of civilians as mandated by the African Union and the United Nations and as consented to by the Government of Sudan.”
While the number of displaced is believed to be in the thousands, the mission is not currently in a position to provide any numbers.
“Until we can get in there, it’s going to be hard for us to determine specific numbers of those displaced or the extent of the damage done,” UNAMID spokesperson Christopher Cycmanick said in an interview with UN Radio.
The security situation has deteriorated over the course of last year and remains volatile in Darfur, which has witnessed fighting since 2003 between rebel groups and Government forces and their allies, militiamen known as the Janjaweed.
Senior UN officials have repeatedly called on all sides to join negotiations aimed at achieving a permanent ceasefire and comprehensive peace for the people of the strife-torn region.