Sudan's ceasefire under threat after raids on Darfur refugee camps

Meera Selva
Wednesday 03 November 2004 01:00
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The Sudanese government raided two refugee camps in war-torn Darfur yesterday, raising fears that the ceasefire between the government and rebel groups had ended.

The Sudanese government raided two refugee camps in war-torn Darfur yesterday, raising fears that the ceasefire between the government and rebel groups had ended.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said government forces moved into the Abu Sharif and Otash camps near Nyala in southern Darfur and took some people out of the camp. They also prevented aid agencies gaining access to the refugees to assess the situation.

The government said it had been asked to enter the camps by local leaders who said townspeople were pretending to be refugees to get food rations. But Barry Caine of the World Food Programme told the BBC: "This is part of an increasing pattern of deteriorating security conditions right across Darfur."

There have been reports of fighting between the Sudan Liberation Movement and government forces 20km from Nyala. The ceasefire has been violated several times since it was signed in April.

UN agencies have suspended work in the most insecure regions. The WFP estimates there are 160,000 people in Darfur who are in desperate need of food, water and medicines, but cannot be reached by humanitarian organisations.

Aid agencies are concerned the authorities might start returning people to their villages, where they are vulnerable to attacks from the Janjaweed militias who precipitated the humanitarian crisis. Refugees suspect the raids are retaliation for the kidnapping of 18 Sudanese Arabslast week.

Meanwhile, African Union mediators have drawn up a security deal at peace talks in Nigeria between the Sudanese government and rebel groups. The proposals include making Darfur a no-fly zone; a key demand of the rebels who accuse the government of using aircraft to support Janjaweed attacks.

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