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Civilian populations held captive in Darfur

November 5, 2004

Oxfam: Civilian populations held captive as security deteriorates in Darfur

More than a hundred thousand people are essentially being held captive by armed militias in West Darfur, international aid agency Oxfam reports today.

Oxfam teams recently visited areas of West Darfur where increased violence and the presence of armed militias is preventing people from leaving their camps and towns.

When women and girls venture beyond the perimeter of these settlements, they are subjected to extreme forms of harassment and violence, including beating, abduction and rape. When men leave the safety of the camps, they risk being killed. Terrified people say that police and government soldiers have been unable to protect them from these horrifying attacks.

“It is clear that the security situation has deteriorated in many areas,” says Adrian McIntyre, spokesperson for Oxfam in Darfur. “The presence of militias and other armed groups around towns in West Darfur not only poses direct and daily threats to tens of thousands of displaced people who have sought shelter there. Local residents are also living in fear of violent attacks. In one particular town, villagers cannot venture even one kilometre beyond the edge of the settlement to tend their crops for fear of being brutalised or killed.”

Over six months after the ceasefire, civilians throughout Darfur continue to be targeted by organised militias and other armed groups. The end of the rainy season is bringing renewed attacks on villages in West and South Darfur, increased banditry and further fighting between Government of Sudan forces and rebel groups.

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“We welcome the announcement that thousands more African Union personnel will be deployed to Darfur to monitor the ceasefire and protect civilians. But time is running out. The desperate plight of people who are effectively imprisoned in West Darfur shows the urgency of the situation. The new AU troops must be deployed to these areas at once. There’s not a moment to lose,” says Barry Coates, Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director.

“We urge the international community to deliver their existing pledges immediately and provide additional funding for increased logistical support, communications equipment and transport to strengthen the ability of the AU mission to stop the violence against civilians that continues throughout Darfur,” says Coates.

Oxfam New Zealand continues to appeal for funds for emergency work in Darfur, Sudan and in refugee camps in neighbouring Chad. To donate call 0800 600 700 or visit http://www.oxfam.org.nz

ENDS

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