8 February 2013

Sudan: Call for Humanitarian Access After Clashes in North Darfur


Khartoum — The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is calling for better access to tens of thousands of people displaced by recent inter-tribal fighting in gold-mining areas of Sudan's North Darfur State.

"UNMAID urges all the parties to allow it to do its assigned mission in the area - and all other areas in Darfur - relating to the delivery of humanitarian assistance and undertaking its responsibility in protecting the civilians, according to its mandate [from] the Security Council that relates to protecting the civilians and delivering humanitarian aid," Aicha Elbasri, UNAMID spokesperson, told IRIN.

The fighting broke out in early January between Northern Reizegat and Beni Hussein tribesmen over control of gold mines in the Jebel Amir area. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 100,000 people have been displaced or severely affected by the fighting, which left more than 100 dead.

"It is unclear at this stage how long the people displaced from the Jebel Amir area are likely to remain displaced. The area is still insecure and over 120 villages have been destroyed," OCHA's public information and reports officer in Khartoum, Damian Rance, told IRIN.

Though the access has been hindered by the continuing insecurity, humanitarian agencies have managed to deliver over 600 tons of food to affected communities. But they have not been able to conduct comprehensive assessment missions to gauge the exact scale of the need.

Tension high

In the locality of El Sireaf, where Jebel Amir is located, the government estimates 65,000 people have been affected. Education has also been disrupted as the displaced have taken refuge in schools. Some of the displaced came to the town with their animals, and there is concern about insufficient pasture and health risks posed by animal deaths.

The International Organization for Migration has also reported that labour migrants from neighbouring Chad were caught up in the fighting and forced to flee back to their homes and to West Darfur State; the organization raised the alarm over 1,500 "destitute migrants" without shelter or assistance.

Although the government was able to bring the fighting under control within days, tension in the area remains high and recent media reports indicate that the fallout from the clashes continues; the Darfur-based Radio Dabanga reported on 6 February that some 16,000 newly displaced people had arrived in the North Darfur towns of Kabkabiya and Saraf Omra following threats by rival tribal militias. Many of the displaced are living on the streets with no humanitarian support; Radio Dabanga reported that authorities in Saraf Omra had allowed humanitarian access to the displaced, but Kabkabiya remained closed off.

Amnesty International has urged the Sudanese government to investigate reports that security officers were involved in the clashes.

Spokesperson Elbasri said UNAMID had not been able to independently verify the claim that government forces were involved in the fighting; IRIN was unable to contact Sudanese authorities for comment.

The two communities signed a government-brokered peace agreement on 17 January, and state authorities continue to mediate a long-term solution to resource-sharing in the area.

This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.

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