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UN's Jan Pronk Decries Excessive Violence in Moving Sudanese Refugees


The United Nation's envoy to Sudan criticized the Sudanese government for using what he says is "too much violence" to relocate thousands of people displaced by the conflict in Darfur.

For days running, Sudanese police have raided this refugee camp on the edge of Nyala, which had about 5000 people. The camp, known as Al-Jeef, is virtually empty now, after a week of pre-dawn police crackdowns on its residents using tear gas, rubber bullets, and wooden sticks to beat those in the camp who refused to leave. More than 100 people were injured in the raids, at least ten rapes were reported, and two spontaneous abortions, according to aid workers at the site.

This is what the Sudan government calls a voluntary relocation, and this latest raid comes a day after Khartoum signed an agreement with two rebel groups in Darfur to prevent attacks against civilians. Sudanese authorities wanted to relocate the camp residents, nearly all of them displaced by the 20 month conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, to a new camp about ten kilometers south of Nyala, the New Sureaf camp.

Jan Pronk, the UN envoy to Sudan, is visiting the region this week. He defended Sudan's right to decide where those displaced by this country's conflict are to be located. But he deplored the use of excessive violence by Sudan's police force in evicting camp residents.

Mr. Pronk spoke to reporters late Thursday in Nyala, Sudan.

"Of course we are not against relocation, the UN, because if the government has a right to decide where people can be helped, and if they are on a place where the government thinks they should not be, then the government can relocate [them] and the international community is not against relocation. I made it clear in my view that too much violence had been used," he said.

Sudan's government considers the New Sureaf camp, run primarily by the International Red Crescent and the Saudi-based Islamic Relief Organization, an ideal camp. The canvas tents are bleached white, numbered, and lined in neat rows. According to Atif Omar Mohammed, aid coordinator for the Islamic Relief Organization, there are regular food distributions of sorghum, sugar, cooking oil, salt, pasta, rice and tomato paste.

However, some residents at the camp claim they are not getting enough food. A group of elders say they have not received food supplies in nine days, and their families were going hungry.

Security is another concern for many of the camp's 1500 mostly black African residents. The New Sureaf camp is near the tribal homeland of the Rizeiqats, who are ethnically Arab and, residents say, hostile to Africans.

Also, distrust of the police is high after this week's raids on their old camp. The residents have come to fear them almost as much as the Arab militias (or janjaweed) whose campaign of terror that has left up to 70,000 Sudanese dead, mostly black Africans, and forced about two million Sudanese from their villages.

There are only 10-15 police officers assigned to the camp, about one officer for every 100 people at the camp. When asked if he felt confident the camp was adequately protected, Mr. Atif, the aid coordinator, says, "It is difficult to know if there are enough police officers here, but then it is Allah who watches over this camp."

Meanwhile, the 15-member UN Security Council is gearing up for an emergency summit in Nairobi, Kenya, next week to discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions against Sudan for not abiding by a UN mandate to rein in the janjaweed militias it is accused of arming in the first place to help put down a 2003 uprising by Western Sudan's two rebel groups.

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