As UN forces end their third week of operations in Darfur, Amnesty International today warned that the security situation for internally displaced people in Darfur is on a knife-edge and warned that a generation of Darfuris is growing up in extreme fear and insecurity in camps awash with weapons – a potentially explosive combination.
The stark warning came as the organization released a report, Displaced in Darfur – A generation of anger, outlining the current state of insecurity in camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Darfur and the potential consequences and possible remedies.
“Almost all of the camps in Darfur are flooded with weapons. The security situation in and outside of the camps continues to deteriorate, as hopes of a political resolution to the Darfur conflict recede and hostilities between the government and armed groups continues to escalate,” said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Africa Programme.
“The welfare of displaced people continues to be ignored while armed groups and the government bicker and impede the complete deployment of UNAMID [hybrid AU-UN mission in Darfur] forces,” said Hondora. “There can be no durable peace without ensuring that the security and human rights of these people are respected and upheld.”
Armed groups continue to use the camps to recruit fighters – including children.
“Darfuri youth live in a situation where there appears to be no hope for the present or future. Angry and frustrated, some of them join armed groups,” said Hondora.
“Ali,” an internally displaced person in Abu Shouk camp, told Amnesty International: “The boys of 18 – they are lost. They have no work, especially the graduates, they live on relief.”
The internally displaced in Darfur have been left largely unprotected. The African Union force that was supposed to protect them was outmanned and outgunned by Janjawid and armed opposition groups who attacked them.
“The same fate will befall UNAMID forces unless clear signals are sent to the warring parties that any attacks on UNAMID and civilians are not acceptable” said Hondora. “In addition, urgent steps must be taken to ensure that the government of Sudan removes all impediments to the complete deployment of UNAMID forces. The international community must also adequately strengthen UNAMID’s resource capacity, including through the provision of ground and air transport equipment.”
The Sudanese army and police, on the other hand – who are also meant to protect civilians – are seen as antagonistic rather than protective by the IDPs, who they often arbitrarily arrest outside IDP camps on suspicion of being members of armed opposition groups.
Some camps, such as Kalma, have members of as many as 29 different ethnic groups. Most Kalma camp residents have arms. Amnesty International has learned that many of the youth in the camp have formed vigilante groups based on their ethnic origin – Fur, Masalit, Zaghawa and Dajo. The UN recorded more than 10 armed incidents in Kalma camp between 16 and 22 October 2007, saying that “Much of the violence has been attributed to armed Fur, including children, against other ethnic groups in the camp.”
“The presence of weapons in the camps has worsened an already volatile security situation for everyone,” said Hondora. “In some IDP camps, a revolver can be bought for only US $25 – leading to widespread incidents of robbery and assault. In this charged atmosphere of anger, fear, insecurity and political disagreements, quarrels often turn tragic.”
Displaced women are at constant risk of rape when they venture outside their camps to find firewood or food. Although most victims of rape accuse Janjawid militia, there are also reports of rape being committed by members of the Sudanese army, the police and other armed opposition groups – including SLA/MM soldiers. Women also say that they are sometimes raped by displaced men inside the IDP camps.
“Mahmud,” an internally displaced person in al-Jeneina, told Amnesty International: “Women are still going out to collect firewood, which is a danger to them as they may be raped. But we men are still letting them go because the men who collect firewood may be killed.”
Amnesty International called on UNAMID to ensure the protection of the internally displaced, including by stationing units near each camp and by constant patrolling – including accompanying people collecting firewood.
“UNAMID must be given the resources to fully ensure the protection of all civilians in Darfur,” said Hondora. “In addition, all parties to the conflict must immediately stop attacking civilians and facilitate the deployment of UNAMID forces to all affected areas.”