The latest news coming out of South Darfur is deeply disturbing.
On the morning of August 25 around sixty Government of Sudan vehicles surrounded Kalma camp – a camp housing 90,000 internally displaced people -- in a supposed attempt to disarm it. Violence broke out, and according to United Nations security reports, 20 people were killed in the attack and over 70 people were injured.
This is not the first time that people who sought refuge in Kalma from the conflict in Darfur have suffered from violent attacks within the camp. In October, 2007, 15,000 people, mainly of the Zaghawa tribe, were driven out of the camp after conflict erupted between factions within the camp. I was in Khartoum a month later and discussed the issue of Kalma camp with many Sudanese people, some of whom had been living there. Many alleged that the Government of Sudan had manipulated this conflict and that the government had either armed one of the factions in the camp or had at least knowingly allowed them to bring arms into the camp.
In November 2007, the Government of Sudan announced that it intended to forcibly disarm Kalma camp, but they were dissuaded from doing so at the time.
The Government of Sudan has also made many statements about the need for the people of Darfur to leave the camps or return to their home areas, despite the fact that the conflict in Darfur is clearly ongoing and people have very justified fears about being attacked again in their home areas. In October 2007, when people fled from Kalma camp into Otash, a nearby camp in South Darfur, Sudanese security forces entered Otash at night and forcibly relocated a number of people to unknown locations.
The Government of Sudan must not be permitted to forcibly relocate or return people from the camps. Any relocations or returns must be voluntary. When I spoke with Darfuri civil society leaders in November 2007 they told me that the residents of Kalma camp did not want to move again to another location.
There is no indication that this has changed. If the Government of Sudan manages to force people out of Kalma camp, this would set a very dangerous precedent. The international community must not allow this to happen.
Following the October 2007 violence in Kalma camp, the Government of Sudan refused to allow humanitarian food aid deliveries into Kalma for one month. Since then, humanitarian agencies have had ongoing difficulties in assisting Kalma’s residents. Travel permits are often refused and the Government of Sudan has restricted fuel to the camp since May.
The residents of Kalma camp were already dealing with the aftermath of recent flooding which had destroyed many already inadequate camp facilities and food supplies. Now they have to deal with the aftermath of yet more violence. The international community must insist that humanitarian agencies be permitted to access Kalma camp now, so that they can provide medical care to the injured and get assistance to people in the camp.
August 10, 2011
| Tagged as: Congress, Darfur, South Sudan, Sudan, U.S. Administration, United Nations