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Unamid, US Embassy discuss safety in Darfur’s Zamzam camp

June 1 - 2018 EL FASHER
UN peacekeepers meet with displaced in a camp for displaced people in Darfur (file photo)
UN peacekeepers meet with displaced in a camp for displaced people in Darfur (file photo)

A delegation of Unamid visited Zamzam camp in El Fasher and was informed about the difficulties for voluntary returnees on Thursday. The United States Chargé d'Affaires of the embassy in Khartoum took the Ramadan breakfast with people there on Wednesday.

During Thursday’s visit by a delegation of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (Unamid) – accompanied by humanitarian and protection officials of the mission – to Zamzam camp, the peacekeepers met with camp omdas, youth and women.

The participants of the meeting talked about the security situation, as well as the availability of food, water and the issue of voluntary return of camp residents.

“The representatives of the displaced people at the camp have renewed their refusal to return voluntarily, seen the lack of security and the reported disruption in their home villages by new settlers,” a leader of the camp said.

A few of them explained that people had tried to return to their areas of origin in Muhajiriya in East Darfur recently, but decided to return because other people had settled in the area.

Food rations

The representatives of the displaced communities added that the World Food Programme (WFP) had cut food rations in the camp: from 280,000 to 47,000 people. “This, in combination with the rise of prices in Sudan, has resulted in higher rates of malnourishment among children and elderly people.”

Representatives of the displaced pointed to the deterioration of the health situation following the withdrawal of the organisations.

Officials of Unamid promised the representatives that they will contribute to development and stabilisation projects in Central Darfur by focusing on the Jebel Marra area – which is hosting its new headquarters.

At the conclusion of talks with the Central Darfur state governor, the Unamid head said that he expected a decision from New York regarding an upgrade to the mission in Zalingei. This mission would head a Jebel Marra task force including 13 Unamid team sites in North, South and Central Darfur.

US Embassy

Stephen Koutsis, United States Chargé d'Affaires of the embassy in Khartoum, gathered for a Ramadan meal with representatives of the displaced people, Omdas, youth and women in the camp on Wednesday. They discussed the security situation and the availability of food in the camp.

One of the representatives speaking to Radio Dabanga said that they explained that the security and humanitarian situation in the camp is worse than in 2004 – when a large influx of people sought refuge in the camp during widespread clashes between armed movements and the Sudanese army.

“We called on the United States to pressure the government and the armed movements to bring peace, and stressed the need to oblige the government of Sudan to expel new settlers from the villages of origin of the displaced. The state has to be serious in the collection of weapons.”

Koutsis and the displaced people talked about ways to engage both warring parties in a sustainable peace process. The representatives, however, said that they have no channel to communicate with the armed movements. “This is the responsibility of the international community to talk to the armed movements.”

Security in Jebel Marra

On Wednesday, two teams of the US Embassy in Khartoum headed by the chargé d'affaires held meetings in Golo, Central Darfur, to discuss the security and humanitarian situation in the Jebel Marra areas in Central and North Darfur.

The state governor’s press office quoted an official of the embassy as saying that there was “stability” in the security situation in western Jebel Marra.

Representatives of the displaced people in Zamzam did not agree. They strongly blamed the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (Unamid) for withdrawing from the camp in spite of the unstable security situation.

Unamid

Last month the head of Unamid, Jeremiah Mamabolo, briefed the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the current situation in Darfur. “The general security situation in Darfur remains calm, except for sporadic clashes between the Sudan Liberation Army of Mr. Abdul Wahid [Abdelwahid El Nur], government forces and nomads in Jebel Marra,” Mamabolo stated. “It is imperative that concerted efforts be exerted towards mobilisation of financial resources to consolidate and sustain the prevailing peace and stability in the region,” he said.

However Mamabolo’s version is contradicted by Jehanne Henry, team leader of the Human Rights Watch Africa Division, who  said in a comment on that “there’s a real risk the dire protection needs of civilians will be ignored or forgotten” – with “such a gloss-over assessment from peacekeepers”.


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