Sudan accepts UN plan

Government halts military action against villages, allows humanitarian work to continue.

By Jeevan Vasagar

Published August 6, 2004 2:17PM (EDT)

Sudan appeared yesterday to have bowed to international pressure over Darfur as the UN announced an agreed plan to tackle the refugee crisis and avert sanctions.

The UN special envoy to the country, Jan Pronk, said the Sudanese government had halted military action against villages in Darfur and lifted restrictions on humanitarian assistance.

Last Friday, the UN security council gave Sudan 30 days to disarm the Janjaweed, the Arab militias deployed by the government to suppress a revolt in Darfur.

Mr Pronk told reporters in Khartoum: "The government of Sudan has to be commended for keeping its promise [on action in Darfur]. We have full access and we have to make full use of this opportunity by coming in with more food, more planes, more trucks, more medication."

He said he had agreed a series of measures with the Sudanese government and sanctions could be averted if there was substantial progress.

But the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, said yesterday Khartoum still had work to do to meet the UN's ultimatum.

He wrote in the Wall Street Journal that while the government had removed obstacles to humanitarian access, it "has not, however, taken decisive steps to end the violence".

Francis Deng, a UN representative, said: "Contrary to official statements about improvement of the security situation and the voluntary return of the displaced, I found _ persistent insecurity and human rights violations."

While access had improved in some cases, "administrative obstacles", such as limited visas, hampered relief work.

In Kalma refugee camp, in south Darfur, the UN reported violent disturbances on Sunday after a government official tried to persuade refugees to go back home. Police opened fire on refugees, including a man crippled by polio, and were then driven out of the camp. The Sudanese authorities blocked entrances to the camp in the standoff. Refugees told the UN 50 men from the camp were driven away in lorries.

With international attention focused on Darfur, the Sudan is anxious to reverse the ethnic "cleansing" of the province. But refugees who have agreed to return home have come under renewed attack from the Janjaweed fighters. The Janjaweed are settling their families in the emptied villages as a reward for their role in the counter-insurgency action in Darfur.

Further attacks have been reported to the UN in west Darfur. In recent days, a girl was raped while she was collecting firewood and a woman and boy were shot by militiamen who looted livestock in the Ardamata refugee camp.

The UN is also concerned about donor cash. Britain is the leading cash donor in Darfur, but other EU governments have been slow to respond. There are an estimated 1.2 million internal refugees in Darfur, and 120,000 who have fled to Chad.

Jeevan Vasagar

MORE FROM Jeevan Vasagar

Related Topics ------------------------------------------