Thousands of refugees flee violence in Darfur

U.N. official renews call for more troops, broader mandate in Sudan conflict

October 01, 2004|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

ISHMA, Sudan - Thousands of terrified Sudanese are again straggling into refugee camps in the Darfur region, driven from their villages by fresh violence that illustrates the challenges of ending the conflict here.

United Nations and relief officials said yesterday that there had been an upsurge in violence this week in southern Darfur. Hege Ospeth, a spokesperson for Norwegian Church Aid, which runs a refugee camp in Bashom, said 5,000 new refugees had arrived from 10 villages that had been attacked by government-backed militias in the past week.

One of those villages, Tegla, was pillaged Monday by Janjaweed militias and uniformed soldiers, said Mirsal Ali Noradin, who arrived at a refugee camp Wednesday. He and his family carried their possessions - including four large beds, a dead chicken and two baby goats - on four donkeys.

"They came in the morning on horses, camels and Land Cruisers. Then they began shooting. Some died," said Noradin, a grim look on his sun-weathered face. "They stole 15 of my goats. What you see is what we have left."

In some cases, though, U.N. officials said the violence was apparently a result of clashes between the rebel Sudan Liberation Army and the government, which, if true, violate a cease-fire agreement. The government and the rebels blame each other for the violence.

The new violence comes as the United Nations weighs whether the Sudanese government has done enough to halt the attacks and disarm the Janjaweed. The government recruited the Arab militias to fight the rebels, but instead the militias targeted black civilians tribally affiliated with the rebels. About 50,000 civilians have been killed and more than 1 million displaced in what the United States has called genocide.

The United Nations has threatened to impose sanctions if Sudan does not comply with a U.S.-sponsored resolution that calls for it do more to stop the violence.

The continuing violence prompted renewed calls for more troops to monitor this Texas-size region. Only 300 African Union soldiers are on the ground here, and their mandate is solely to protect cease-fire monitors.

"The mandate has to be expanded," said Juan Mendez, the U.N. secretary-general's special adviser on the prevention of genocide.

The AU force cannot do anything about militia actions "because they don't fit clearly into the breach of the cease-fire," Mendez said.

Villagers said Monday's attack was the fourth on Tegla. The first was in September 2003, the second in June and the third in August.

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