August 9, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese NGOs have voiced deep concerns over the humanitarian conditions unfolding as a result of days of violence against refugees in the country’s western region of Darfur, saying the situation requires “urgent humanitarian intervention”.
- An elderly man is pushed in a wheelbarrow to be examined by doctors at Kassab camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Kutum, North Darfur August 9, 2012 (REUTERS)
According to the Sudanese Committee for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms (SCDRF), the events that occurred last week in Kassab IDP camp in Kutum area of North Darfur State have created “dangerous humanitarian conditions requiring urgent intervention to prevent them from worsening”.
SCDRF’s call, contained in a press release issued Thursday, is referring to reports from multiple sources that the camp was attacked on more than one occasion by gunmen affiliated to the notorious Janjaweed militias following the assassination on 1 August of a local official linked to an Arab ethnic group.
The attacks, according to local NGOs in Kutum, has claimed the lives of 21 people and led to the injury of 600 while more than 1,000 have gone missing. In the wake of the attacks, the Sudanese army announced it was deploying more troops in Kutum amid reports that it clashed with the vengeful Arab militias.
SCDRF’s monitoring coordinator, Abd Allah Adam Khatir, made an urgent call for international humanitarian groups to intervene to salvage the humanitarian situation in Kutum. He also called on the ministry of justice to probe the incident and disarm what he termed as pro-government militias.
Khatir underscored the gravity of Kutum events by saying they represent a national security threat and created a humanitarian situation in need of urgent intervention.
Similarly, a number of local NGOs in Kutum have shared calls for intervention and painted a tragic picture of the situation, with one representative saying that 30,000 people have been displaced by the violence.
Abdel Nasir Ibrahim, chief of the civil society organizations in Kutum, described the events as “sad” and confirmed the death and injury of “dozens”. Ibrahim said that all of Kassab camp’s population of 30,000 refugees had been displaced amid deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in the area.
The secretary-general of the NGOs association in Kutum, Abd Allah Hamid, said he urges international humanitarian organizations to intervene in addressing the fallout from Kutum fighting which he described as “bloody.” Hamid called on the government to bear its responsibility in protecting civilians and providing food and medicines to the affected people. He also demanded that the ministry of justice forms a committee to investigate the incidents.
The secretary of finance at the same NGO, Adam Hassan, warned that if the government and international NGOs don’t intervene pretty quickly the situation will deteriorate dangerously. “There is a great lack of food, medicine, drinking water and tents” he said.
Adam said that Kutum refugees are now scattered on outskirts of the town where more than 70 people could be found huddling in one house, while thousands are roaming in search for shelter and food.
Meanwhile, the committee of Kassab IDPs issued a statement on Thursday saying that pro-government militias had conducted serious crimes that violated international, humanitarian and divine laws.
The statement condemned the UN-AU peacekeeping mission in the region (UNAMID) for failing to act on its mandate of protecting civilians just like the government failed to protect them.
The statement further described the events as the latest development in the government’s policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing against IDPs. It called on UNAMID to uphold its mandate and asked for the formation of an international committee to probe the events and refer its findings to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague.
UNAMID, for its part, said on Thursday that it began in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the North Darfur Ministry of Health and the Kutum Rural Hospital, the delivery of medical assistance to over 170 persons in Kassab camp.
Darfur is once again witnessing an increase in violence after a lull in fighting over recent years compared to the peak of the conflict in 2003-2004, when more than 300,000 people died and 2.7 million lost their homes after government forces backed by Janjaweed militias launched an abusive counterinsurgency campaign that targeted not only the rebels who took up arms accusing the government of neglecting the region but also the ethnic groups linked to them.
The ICC issued arrest warrants for a number of Sudanese individuals including President Omer Al-Bashir on charges of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the region.