UN troops accused of standing by as civilians are killed

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The UN mission in Sudan stands accused of serious failures in its duty to protect civilians who have been killed in their hundreds during a month-long campaign of violence by the Khartoum government on its restive southern border.

Eyewitnesses described how they saw peacekeepers standing by while unarmed civilians were shot dead outside the gates of a UN base before being dragged away. They also said that local leaders have been handed over to government forces after seeking shelter with UN officials.

The violence has driven tens of thousands of civilians into hiding in the Nuba Mountains, which are controlled by rebel fighters and where public anger at the UN has left peacekeepers afraid to leave their bases, according to officers from the mission's Egyptian contingent.

When fighting erupted in the South Kordofan state capital of Kadugli in early June, tens of thousands of terrified civilians flocked to a "safe haven" directly outside the gates of the UN Missions in Sudan (Unmis) base.

Hawa Mando, a school teacher, reached the camp for internally displaced people on 5 June with her family after fighting in the town forced her to flee her home. She witnessed government agents and irregular troops known as the Popular Defence Force – notorious for atrocities in Darfur – entering the camp hunting for people on a list of government critics.

"They had lists of people they were looking for," said the mother of seven. "Local spies would point people out and they would shoot them." She continued: "In front of my eyes I saw six people shot dead. They just dragged the bodies away by their feet like slaughtered sheep.

"People were crying and screaming and the UN soldiers just stood and watched in their watchtowers."

Kouider Zerrouk, an Unmis spokesman based in Khartoum, denied that peacekeepers had stood by while civilians were killed.

The Khartoum regime has been attacking the South Kordofan region for at least a month as tensions rise before South Sudan's declaration of independence tomorrow.