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1 March 2013 The United Nations refugee agency today stressed that efforts to achieve reconciliation and combat impunity are needed to avoid long-term displacement in Mali, where hundreds of thousands of people have been uprooted since fighting broke out over a year ago.
“UNHCR believes that reconciliation efforts are urgently needed, together with efforts to combat impunity, to encourage peaceful coexistence between communities, to help long-term stabilization and security and to prevent Mali’s displacement crisis from becoming more protracted,” the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Adrian Edwards, told reporters in Geneva.
Northern Mali was occupied by radical Islamists after fighting broke out in January 2012 between Government forces and Tuareg rebels. The conflict prompted the Malian Government to request assistance from France to stop the military advance of extremist groups.
According to UNHCR estimates, some 430,000 people have been uprooted by the crisis. Of those, more than 260,000 are internally displaced and over 170,000 have fled as refugees to neighbouring countries.
Mr. Edwards said that almost two months after the French intervention, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) as well as refugees is still high and in some cases continues to increase as many people fear returning to their homes even though the security situation has improved.
“For IDPs and refugees alike the primary worry remains insecurity. Continued fighting, suicide attacks, reprisal attacks against some communities, the presence of mines and unexploded ordinance in the regions of Mopti, Gao, and Timbuktu, are all cited as reasons to delay returning,” Mr. Edwards said.
“However, the absence of services in the north is also a factor: with few schools functioning there, and Government authorities still absent in many towns and cities, many displaced families prefer to wait.”
Mr. Edwards noted that for those outside Mali there is the added complication of ethnicity, as the majority of refugees are Tuareg or Arab and fear reprisal attacks against them. In particular, they fear that radical extremists might remain present in the community. For this reason, refugee numbers continue to grow.
He added that UNHCR is currently planning to support reconciliation efforts in areas of displacement and returns, as well as in refugee camps.
Marking the 10 years of war in Darfur the secretary general of the Sudan People Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) stated Sudan “is looking for a fundraising conference in Doha to continue the genocide and war in Darfur”.
Yasir Arman affirmed that in the last two weeks, Sudan has experienced the worst human rights violations by the government, in a press statement released on 27 February.
Examples therein include the arrest of opposition leaders who signed the New Dawn Charter, massive harassment of Christians in the country and continuous bombardments of displaced in Darfur, Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains killing civilians, he cited.
Arman called for a paradigm shift to solve the conflict in Sudan from the old policies of Khartoum to new policies based on respect of human rights, peace and national reconciliation.
According to him, it has become clear this is the only way to address the crisis in Darfur and in the rest of the country.
The SPLM-N is “ever ready for a humanitarian cessation of hostilities and for a solution that will bring democracy, respect of human rights and national consensus”, he declared.
Refugees: violations continue
Sudanese refugees living in camps in eastern Chad told Radio Dabanga that after 10 years of war in Darfur violations against unarmed civilians continue.
They also expressed their dissatisfaction with efforts made to stop the war and the lack of genuine peace in Darfur.
“The Sudanese government is still committing horrible crimes against civilians, bombing and burning villages and water sources, raping women, arming the militias and helping them invade lands”, one of the refugees said in an interview.
Sheikh Ali Yagoub, head of camp Treguine, said the international community has not “seriously tried to stop the regime’s practices in Darfur as it did with Libya”, claiming “many of the UN Security Council resolutions are just ink on paper”.
The warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President al-Bashir have not limited his movements, the sheikh said. Instead, he added, al-Bashir signed partial agreements that bought him time to continue atrocities against civilians in Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan.
UNAMID, sent to Darfur by the international community to protect civilians, turned out to be unable to even protect themselves and are now at the mercy of the Sudanese regime, the sheikh was quoted as saying.
He suggested the Mission must “change its mandate to protect civilians and enable them to return home”.
The sheikh believes the Darfur crisis will not end unless justice is done and criminals are arrested and brought to the ICC.
Activist Hawa Saleh
Sudanese activist Hawa Saleh, known as Hawa Jongo, said the war in Darfur has been painful and harsh to everyone in the region, especially for women, the elderly and children.
Saleh, a former displaced of camp Abu Shouk who now resides in the US, received last year the International Women of Courage Awards from the American First Lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Speaking to Radio Dabanga she demanded the international community to fulfill its role in protecting civilians, stopping aerial bombardments and making courageous and informed decisions to end the crisis in Darfur and bring perpetrators to justice.
“The government of Sudan has not and will not honor its commitments in resolving the crisis. It will prolong the conflict and refrain from implementing the agreements it signed and continue with the systematic killings and violence”, she said.
She noted that on 10 March revolutionary leaders and (international) political figures will hold an event in front of the White House in memory of the 10 years of war in Darfur.
“Ugliest forms of abuses”
A displaced woman living in camp Kassab, North Darfur, told Radio Dabanga that women have been subjected to the ugliest forms of abuses such as rapes and beatings in the past 10 years by pro-government militias.
“We have experienced enough suffering and pain and need security, stability and peace”, she was quoted as saying.
The lady demanded the international community to fulfill its role in protecting the displaced, bringing perpetrators to justice and ensuring everyone can return home.
US: ‘Increased insecurity’
On 26 February in a press release the United States expressed its deep concern that the people of Darfur continue suffering from increased insecurity, human rights abuses and sexual violence 10 years after the outbreak of war in the region.
According to the White House 300.000 people were killed and over two million were displaced since the outbreak of the war.
It attributed the deaths and displacement to the “brutal conflict among Sudanese Government forces, rebels, and militias, and continued aerial bombardments and indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas by the Sudanese Armed Forces, in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions”.
Related: ‘Increased insecurity’ after 10 years of war in Darfur -US (27 February 2013)
Article source: http://www.radiodabanga.org/node/43992
The Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) of the government of Sudan announced the guidelines for 2013 for the work of humanitarian agencies operating in Darfur, which include facilitating their travel procedures to the region.
Suleiman Abdul Rahman, HAC’s general commissioner, specified that travel permits would be cancelled maximum 72 hours prior to agencies departure to Darfur, adding this is valid for both national and international organizations.
He did note that any entity intending to travel to Darfur must provide HAC with information about the project they are working on and if this includes partners, local or international.
Other guidelines, according to the commissioner, dictate that foreign organizations working temporarily in Darfur must acquire a permanent registration with clear technical agreements and source of their projects’ financing.
He said this would ensure that organizations are established in Darfur for longer periods of time promoting stability and the region’s quick recovery.
The principle of the new guidelines is based on the provision of access to all areas of Sudan in need of humanitarian intervention, the commissioner said.
Rahman explained that any exception to this rule would be made under specific circumstances only. If aid workers would encounter themselves under life-threatening situations, HAC would advice them against traveling, he said.
Photo: Darfur refugee camp (Radio Dabanga file)
Article source: http://www.radiodabanga.org/node/44001