Home | News    Saturday 27 August 2005

UNHCR chief calls on world to compensate Chad over Darfur

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Aug 26, 2005 (Ndjamena) — The top United Nations refugee official called Friday on the international community to compensate Chad with development projects for taking in tens of thousand of refugees fleeing the fighting in Darfur in western Sudan.

The world "should recognise the price that the people of Chad are paying in welcoming refugees on their soil," UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Gutteres said after meeting Chadian President Idriss Deby.

"Compensation should be paid by initiating community development."

Ethnic conflict in Darfur between rebel groups drawn from a local population of black African origin and Arab militias waging a scorched earth campaign to crush the insurgents has since February 2003 displaced up to two million people, according to UNHCR figures.

Chad has taken in an estimated 200,000 refugees.

Gutteres, a former Portuguese prime minister, who arrived in Ndjamena after visiting a refugee camp in eastern Chad, also called on the international community to bring pressure on the warring parties to make peace and allow the refugees to go home.

"Only the return of peace in Darfur will be able to guarantee the safety of the Sudanese refugees," he said. "It is time to recentre the attention of the world on Sudan, a country that has become a little forgotten."

African Union mediators in Tanzania, after a round of informal talks between the warring parties, on Wednesday announced a resumption on September 15 of full peace negotiations between two Darfur rebel groups and Khartoum after months of stalling.

The conflict has killed 300,000 people and Guterres put Sudan’s wars in Darfur and in the south high among his priorities on becoming head of the Geneva-based UNHCR on June 15.

On Thursday, Guterres visited a camp inside Chad for 15,000 refugees at Iridimi, 200 kilometres (125 miles) northeast of Abeche, before he headed 700 kilometres westwards to Ndjamena.

He said he was "impressed by the space available (there) and by its health centre and schools" but said that "in spite of the efforts of the international community the refugees are still living in deplorable social and sanitary conditions."

He said the UNHCR and the Chadian authoroities would strengthen security at the camps by increasing police numbers "while avoiding militarising them."

In May UNHCR staff were injured in several camps, including that at Iridimi, by refugees protesting against a census operation.

From Chad, Guterres is due to go on Saturday to south Sudan, where a conflict that lasted for more than 20 years until last January killed at least 1.5 million other Sudanese.

That separate war, also partly an ethnic one pitting an Arabic-dominated north against a Christian or animist black majority south, has driven 4.6 million people from their homes inside Sudan, while 500,000 are in camps in Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Guterres said that there would be a strengthening of the means to ensure the reception of Central African Republic refugees in Chad, whose numbers have been swollen by the arrival of 10,000 who have been fleeing since June clashes between armed groups and loyalist forces in Central Africa.

From south Sudan Guterres will go to Kenya.

AFP/ST

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