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Escalating Violence Across Darfur

Escalating Violence Across Darfur Sparks Urgent Appeal From Annan

New York, Dec 7 2006 6:00PM

Deploring the recent upsurge in violence and displacement across the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today expressed alarm that the worsening situation may have devastating consequences for neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) as well.

Several hundred civilians, including women, children and the elderly, are being killed each day in Darfur and there are also reports of mass rapes and other gross violations of human rights, Mr. Annan said in a <"http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2006/sgsm10785.doc.htm">statement released by his spokesman.

“The Secretary-General appeals to all parties in the strongest terms to immediately cease hostilities and stop all attacks against civilians,” the statement read. “Those violating international humanitarian law by attacking civilians and relief workers must be held accountable.”

In just the past six weeks, more than 80,000 people – about 50,000 in Darfur and 30,000 in Chad – have had to flee their homes as Government troops and allied militia clash with rebel groups.

More than 200,000 people have been killed since Government troops and allied militia began fighting with rebel groups in Darfur, an impoverished and remote region on Sudan’s western flank, in 2003. At least 2 million others have had to leave their homes.

The recent clashes have been particularly intense in North Darfur, when dozens of villages have been burned down or otherwise destroyed.

Attacks against relief workers – whether from the United Nations or non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – now occur daily, and dozens of aid vehicles have been hijacked in the last few weeks.

As a result, Mr. Annan warned, the humanitarian lifeline for 4.3 million people in Darfur, Chad and the CAR has been jeopardized, with many people cut off by the fighting from relief supplies.

More than 100 non-essential UN and NGO staff have been relocated from El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, because of deadly fighting there over the past week between an armed Arab militia and a section of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) linked to the leader Minni Minnawi.

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reported that a student demonstration in El Fasher against the Arab militia’s presence turned violent, with protesters throwing stones at Government police officers in the main market and those officers using tear gas to disperse the crowd.

At the nearby Zam Zam camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs), there was a separate protest by some camp residents at the lack of protection from the militiamen.

In today’s statement Mr. Annan called on the Sudanese Government to restore law and order in the areas under its control, especially El Fasher and the West Darfur capital of El Geneina. He also urged all sides to ensure uninterrupted humanitarian access to those in need.

The Secretary-General stressed that the UN and the African Union (AU), which has a peacekeeping mission in Darfur known as AMIS, are ready to act as mediators between the sides and to extend any other support they can to attempts at dialogue. Last month, the AU Peace and Security Council agreed to extend the AMIS mandate until June next year.

That extension was endorsed several weeks after participants at a meeting in Addis Ababa – including the UN, the AU and the Sudanese Government – agreed to a three-phase process of enhanced UN support to AMIS, culminating in a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping operation taking over in Darfur.

Speaking to journalists at UN Headquarters today, Mr. Annan said a letter received last week from Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir detailing his Government’s position on elements of the hybrid UN-AU force “was a bit ambiguous.” He added that the UN would press Khartoum to accept such a force.

“The Sudanese authorities are the ones who have blocked us, and we are continuing [to be] pressing them and we have asked others with influence to work with them, both from the global area, and also leaders in the region,” he said.

The Secretary-General also reiterated that the Sudanese Government has patently not been able to meet its responsibility to protect its citizens in Darfur and “in time they may have to answer collectively and individually for what its happening.”

Ends

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