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UN Chief 'Shocked and Humbled' by Darfur Visit

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he was "shocked and humbled" by his visit to a refugee camp in El Fasher in war-torn northern Darfur. He said the visit has strengthened his resolve to end the war in Darfur. Lisa Schlein is traveling with the secretary-general and reports for VOA from Khartoum.

The U.N. chief had a full day of meetings with government officials, tribal and civic leaders. He visited the site of the future headquarters for the 26,000-strong African Union-United Nations hybrid peacekeeping force. But, he says he was particularly touched by what he saw during a brief visit to the El Salam camp, home to more than 45,000 internally displaced people.

"I was so shocked and humbled when I visited the IDP [internally displaced persons] camps," said Ban Ki-moon. "I was shocked at the poverty and hardship all these tens of thousands of people who are undergoing. I really wanted to give them even a small hope, of silent hope as the secretary-general. I felt humbled by the limited resources and power."

Al Salem is one of three camps for IDPs in the El Fasher area. While there, the U.N. secretary-general told a huge crowd of people who came out to greet him that he was bringing them a message of hope.

He pledged that the United Nations would help bring peace and protect their human rights. He said he would do what he could to help all the internally displaced return to the homes they were forced to flee.

Mr. Ban's visit was hurried and held under heightened security because of a security incident earlier in the day.

Demonstrations broke out when the secretary-general arrived for a meeting with representatives of the three camps. A group of uninvited guests, mostly women, shouted in Arabic, "We don't care for U.N.! This is our country." The intrusion appeared orchestrated.

While the guards at the U.N. compound were disturbed by the incident, Mr. Ban says he was not worried.

"I would not regard it as a protest against me, against the United Nations," he said. "All the people, as you have seen, a hundred thousand people in Juba and tens of thousands of people here in Darfur all welcomed me and they all welcomed and appreciated the United Nations. What they shouted at me, I would think that it was an expression of their frustration, an expression of their anger at why they had suffered."

Before leaving Al Fasher, Mr. Ban kept his promise to meet with the protesters. He said he wanted to hear everybody's concerns.