UN aid chief retreats from troubled Sudan

KALMA CAMP, Sudan (Reuters) — UN humanitarian chief Jan Egeland and aid workers beat a hasty retreat from a refugee camp in Darfur on Monday after a demonstration spun out of control and an aid worker was attacked.

The melee at the Kalma Camp in South Darfur occurred after thousands of Darfuris protested to demand international troops deploy there to protect them.

A female refugee shouted that an aid worker was a member of the Janjaweed militia blamed for atrocities in Darfur.

Women wearing brightly coloured robes and men in white jalabiyya gathered around shouting “Janjaweed, Janjaweed” then attacked a UN vehicle with axes, stones and sticks, shattering its windows.

One man tried to stab the Sudanese aid worker for the British charity Oxfam, who was beaten as he scrambled into the car while others tried to hold off the angry crowd.

Demonstrations and eruptions of violence were reported elsewhere in Sudan’s vast west on Monday as refugees learned of the peace pact signed on Friday in Nigeria between the Sudanese government and the main Darfur rebel group.

Tensions have increased as camp dwellers’ expectations were raised for an end to three years of fighting that has driven two million people from their homes and into squalid camps in Darfur and across the border into Chad.

Many were disappointed with the deal saying it did not go far enough and they demanded international troops be deployed to protect them.

“This peace is not reality,” said Mohammad Jaama Sineen from Darfur’s largest tribe, the Fur.

“We are asking for international forces. We want to ask Jan Egeland to send the UN to protect us,” added the refugee who has lived in Kalma camp near Nyala in South Darfur state since rebels rose against the government in 2003.

Oxfam country director Caroline Nursey said the man attacked at Kalma was a trusted long-term worker for the organisation and the crowd had misunderstood something he said.

The UN entourage travelling with Egeland, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, hastily left the camp to return to Nyala town, about 15km away. But angry refugees, looking for a fresh target, turned against the African Union forces monitoring a tentative truce in the region. The crowd besieged the compound of AU police.


Violence repeated


Egeland said violence targeting the AU was repeated in other camps in West Darfur on Monday. He urged calm saying people had to realise the 7,000-strong AU force was there to help.

Kalma camp residents, however, were on edge.

The main faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), led by Minni Arcua Minnawi, signed the peace agreement in the Nigerian capital Abuja. But a rival faction, led by Abdel Wahed Mohammad Al Nur, rejected it along with a second Darfur rebel group.

Minnawi is from the smaller Zaghawa tribe but is militarily stronger than Nur, who, like many of those in the camps visited by Egeland on Monday, is from the Fur tribe. “This peace in Abuja is not complete. We reject it totally,” said Ezz El-Din Ahmed, who is Fur.

“They [the government] want us to go home but we will not go back until Abdel Wahed himself comes to Kalma to tell us there is peace,” said another Fur tribesman, Abdul Shafie Arba Hassan, who fled his home for the camp three years ago.

Western governments have called for a UN mission to take over from the 7,000 African Union peacekeepers in Darfur. Sudan has said in the past it would only consider a UN mission in its vast west after a peace agreement.

Thousands of camp residents chanting: “Welcome, welcome international protection,” surrounded Egeland with signs which read, “Enough suffering for the Darfur people.” 

The SLA and the Justice and Equality Movement  took up arms in early 2003 accusing  the  government of  neglecting Darfur, an arid region the size of France. Egeland, who is on a visit to Darfur a month after the Sudanese authorities prevented him from travelling to the region, has called on Khartoum to give aid workers better access to Darfur, as agreed in the peace deal.

He was to return to Khartoum on Monday night to meet with UN and government officials.

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