Sudan’s Information Minister Ahmed Bilal has dismissed allegations that Sudanese troops raped 200 women during a raid in Darfur two weeks ago and said Khartoum will not allow a new investigation into the alleged atrocities.
"Nothing of that happened," Bilal told South Sudan in Focus by phone late Thursday.
"This is against our Sudanese tradition and Sudanese behavior for such a thing as mass rape to happen. And in this village, particularly, there are 30 of the soldiers who are married and living there, so how can this come?” he said.
Dozens of people rallied outside European Union offices in Khartoum Thursday to protest the findings of an investigation that concluded there was no evidence that Sudanese soldiers committed mass rape in Darfur earlier this month.
That investigation was carried out jointly by the African Union (AU) and the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Darfur, UNAMID.
Call for new probe
The protesters want a new investigation to be held because, for more than one week after the alleged mass rapes, the Sudanese government barred UNAMID from interviewing the alleged victims. When the A.U. and U.N. investigators were finally allowed to speak to the women, they did so in the presence of numerous Sudanese troops. Rights groups say the victims must have felt intimidated by the presence of the Sudanese soldiers – the very same group that is accused of raping the women.
The protesters handed a petition calling for a new probe into the alleged rapes to the European Union ambassador in Khartoum.
“We need the international community to press the government to hold an independent investigation that will include the European Community, UNAMID and the Sudanese national NGOs, to go and investigate what happened exactly in that village,” Sadiq Yousif, head of the Sudanese Solidarity Committee and one of the signatories of the petition, said.
But Bilal said the findings of the report by the AU and UNAMID are final. The government will not allow any further probes into the alleged incident, he said.
“This is interference! We’ll no longer allow anybody to intervene in our affairs like that. UNAMID is not from the Sudanese forces, it’s an international force,” he said.
Sexual violence in Darfur
Former head of the United Nations in Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, said sexual violence, including mass rape, has long been part of the violence in Darfur.
"I witnessed that for myself in terms of my staff reporting these things on the ground and the survivors of rape talking to me," said Kapila, who spent time in Darfur in 2003.
Kapila recalled another mass rape in Taweela, in Darfur in 2003, which involved Sudanese soldiers and militiamen.
“Sexual violence has been a pattern in this crisis ever since its early days... Mass rape is a very cheap and easy way to subject a population,” he said.
The U.S. State Department has said it is deeply concerned by the allegations of mass rape by Sudanese forces in Darfur. In a statement, the United States regretted that the government in Khartoum had delayed access by independent investigators to the alleged victims of the atrocities.