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Sudan to close down Darfur IDP camps in early 2010: official

November 10, 2009 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government will begin closing down the camps for the displaced population in war torn region of Darfur next year, a senior official said today.

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Displaced Sudanese women and children seeking medical treatment line up outside the Egyptian military field hospital at Abu Shouk refugee camp, outside the Darfur town of al-Fasher, Sudan Thursday, March 26, 2009 (AP)

Speaking to the UN sponsored Miraya FM radio the humanitarian aid commissioner Hasabu Abdel-Rahman said that the Sudanese government has plans to close down displaced camps in the greater Darfur region by early 2010.

The independent Al-Sahafa newspaper quoted Abdel-Rahman as saying that his ministry is implementing a policy of “converting the aid money to a service program to rehabilitate villages through gradual transformation to construction stages”.

The Sudanese official disclosed that the government is building 20,000 housing units for the IDP’s in the capital towns of El-Fasher, El-Geneina and Nyala.

He added that the IDP’s will be given two choices either move to their villages or to the new housing complexes but did not specify the consequences for rejecting the options.

Sudanese officials have long stated that they intend to assert the authority of the state by dismantling the IDP camps but previous attempts led by former spy chief Salah Gosh, defense minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, former interior minister Al-Zebeir Bashir Taha and former state minister for humanitarian affairs Ahmed Haroun, have failed due to resistance from the camp residents.

Darfur rebel groups today reacted angrily to the government’s announcement.

“The government wants to send our people back to the same places they fled from so that they can get killed again under the whole world eyes” Abdel-Wahid Al-Nur leader of Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) told Sudan Tribune.

“I want to remind the government that international conventions prohibit forcing IDP’s to repatriate” he added.

The Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) spokesperson Ahmed Hussein said the move is a “cover-up for a new crime the government intends to commit similar to the one in Kalma camp [August 2008 killings of IDP’s by government troops]. It is classic of them to do so”.

“This is clearly and unequivocally a war crime what they are trying to do. They are taking advantage of the world easing pressure on them and Hasabu himself is a security officer not a humanitarian one worst than Haroun” Hussein added.

The JEM official urged the international community to intervene and press Khartoum to reverse its decision.

The UN says up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million fled their homes since ethnic minority rebels in the western region of Darfur first rose up against the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum in February 2003.

The Sudanese government disputes the death toll saying 10,000 people died.