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Militiamen assault displaced people returning to South Darfur

February 20 - 2018 BIELEL
Bielel in South Darfur (OCHA administrative map, Wikimedia Commons)
Bielel in South Darfur (OCHA administrative map, Wikimedia Commons)

Militiamen assaulted a number of displaced people who had returned to an area in Bielel locality last week, which is considered to be their home area. Five people were seriously wounded.

The militiamen beat and stabbed an unknown number of people. In total, 600 displaced people had left Kalma, Dereig and El Salam camps in South Darfur to return to Marla in Bielel locality.

One of the injured people told Radio Dabanga that “militant tribal members” attacked them after arriving to the area on Tuesday February 13. “They beat us with rifle butts and robbed us of our possessions.

“The militia members told us that our return here is not welcomed,” the victim said. Reports vary whether the majority of the people have returned to the camps or were able to stay in Marla.

Returning home

The return of displaced people and refugees to their areas of origin in Darfur remains a challenge for both the Sudanese government as the displaced themselves. Insecurity caused by roaming militias and the abundance of weapons, as well as the danger of running into armed new settlers in the home areas has kept at bay many of the displaced people living in camps.

Early January, Radio Dabanga received reports from other returning displaced people in South Darfur that a paramilitary force prevented them from leaving again. About 300 displaced people had returned from the Shangil Tobaya camps in Tawila locality to their home villages in El Malam in northern South Darfur.

When they discovered that militiamen and other gunmen are still roaming in the area, dozens of them decided to return to the relative safety of the camps. Paramilitary troops, however, prevented them from leaving.

Dismantling camps

Voluntary return is one of the options which the Sudanese government gives to the about 2.7 million people in Darfur who have been displaced by the armed conflict that erupted in 2003. Khartoum has been seeking to empty or abolish camps and it also makes plans for the transformation of the camps into residential areas, or to make camps integrate into existing cities and towns.

The South Darfur state government, among others, has started planning the transformation of El Sareif camp for displaced people, south of Nyala. The camp would be turned into a permanent town for the displaced to settle permanently.

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