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Sudan Accuses Opposition of Inciting Clashes

A burnt out building and trucks in the Azzahri Quarter after angry mobs burned down a police station following rumors that they would be forcefully evicted
The Sudanese government accuses the opposition of inciting Wednesday's clashes between police and internally displaced people at a camp near the Sudanese capital, accusations that the opposition denies.

The director general of the Sudan News Agency SUNA, Rabia Abdel Attie, tells VOA police did not use any force as they attempted to relocate displaced people living in a camp near Khartoum to another location.

Mr. Attie says the displaced people's violent resistance to the move surprised authorities, especially since such moves were common, not violent, and in keeping with residential planning.

At least 14 policemen and several civilians were killed and more than a dozen injured during Wednesday's relocation. Most of the camp's residents are southerners who had escaped more than two decades of fighting.

The SUNA director accuses opposition political parties of inciting the violence because of what he says is their displeasure over the recent signing of a peace deal between the Sudanese government and the south's main rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

"They have a lot of objection against this," he said. "They consider this case as a case to be exploited against the government and to make some problem and trouble to the government that the government is displacing people by force."

Meanwhile, one of Sudan's main opposition parties, Umma, denies that it and other parties are behind the violence. Umma spokeswoman Mariam Al-Mahdi says the government is making the opposition a scapegoat for its mistakes.

"This is absolutely nonsense by the side of the government of Sudan," she said. "It's a clear escape of facing its responsibility towards its citizens. This is not the first time the government of Sudan confronts the civilians harshly because they are taking refuge in their capital."

Ms. Al-Mahdi says the Umma party welcomes the north-south peace deal and the interim constitution required under the deal.

She says her party has concerns about how the interim constitution is being drafted. But, she says, the Umma party would never use such tactics to show its displeasure.

The Sudanese government is under fire for Wednesday's clashes. Press reports quote United Nations officials as saying the government violated the displaced peoples' rights by forcibly relocating them and using heavy-handed and repressive methods to do so.

All throughout Sudan's two-year north-south peace negotiations, the United States had encouraged the Sudanese government and the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement to sign a comprehensive peace deal, which they did at the beginning of this year.

The United States is now assisting southern Sudanese living in camps in Khartoum, Kenya, and other places to return home.

For instance, the United States announced May 17 that it would contribute an additional $18 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to support the repatriation and reintegration of Sudanese refugees from Kenya to southern Sudan.

In April, at an international donors' meeting that raised $4 billion for reconstruction in southern Sudan, the United States announced it would pledge about $1.7 billion.

At that meeting, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick told reporters that assistance to Sudan rests on the implementation of the north-south peace agreement and resolution of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur, a conflict in western Sudan that has killed thousands and displaced millions of Sudanese since 2003.

In March, the United States drafted a resolution in the U.N. Security Council, which was accepted, to authorize 10,000 peacekeeping troops for southern Sudan. The peacekeepers are to monitor the peace deal that ended the 21-year civil war. That conflict cost two million lives and forced four million people from their homes.

Over the past three years, the United States has committed more than $1.6 billion to Sudan for humanitarian assistance and conflict resolution in Darfur and for reconstruction and development as well as support for implementation of the north-south peace deal.