UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited West Darfur on 24 April, where he met with, in El Geneina, the local authorities and discussed with them UNHCR's future role in the region. In a press release issued on 24 April, UNHCR said that Mr. Guterres announced that the Sudanese government had agreed to an expansion of UN refugee agency work in West Darfur. Some 2 million people have been displaced by the violence in Darfur. UNHCR is responsible for coordinating protection for about 700,000 of them in West Darfur, but does not have access to many of them because of the insecure environment.
The High Commissioner also expressed appreciation to authorities for accepting some 25,000 Chadian refugees who have sought refuge in West Darfur following insecurity in neighboring eastern Chad. More than 4,800 of them are in Um Shalaya camp, while the others are in makeshift settlements near the border.
Mr. Guterres urged the local authorities to improve security, to enable humanitarians to do their work, pointing out that many aid agencies are only able to move by helicopter in much of West Darfur because roads are too dangerous and prone to ambush.
Following his discussions with the local authorities, Mr. Guterres met with internally displaced people (IDPs) in Krinding Camp, near El Geneina. The camp was established in 2004 at the height of the displacement and today has some 31,500 residents. He met first met with a group of some 20 leaders representing the camp population, who expressed concern over the security situation and requested to be proctected. He also met with a group of displaced women who expressed fears about security and concerns over school fees. The women also asked for more income-generation activities to support their families. UNHCR and its partners are running 34 women's centers in West Darfur - including in Krinding - where women can learn new skills. The High Commissioner also visited a children's centre. Speaking to reporters during his visit to West Darfur, Mr. Guterres stated that the whole world needed to work together to bring peace to the region and that a political solution was the most important and first step to achieve.
On Wednesday 25 April, Mr. Guterres was scheduled to meet with Chadian refugees who have fled to Darfur over the past 18 months to escape ongoing violence in eastern Chad. On Thursday, he will go to Kassala State in eastern Sudan, where he will visit refugee camps for Eritreans and Ethiopians. The eastern camps were established nearly 40 years ago - in 1968. East Sudan hosts a refugee population of approximately 136,000 refugees.
Over 26,000 Sudanese IDPs assisted to return home since the beginning of the year
The cooperation between the United Nations, the Government of National Unity (GNU) and the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) to implement the joint GoNU/GoSS/UN Plan for Returns continues.
Since road convoys started in February 2007 and up the 21 April 07, over 26,000 IDPs have been assisted to return to their homes. A total of 12,523 returnees (3,401 households) went from Khartoum to Lakes, Unity, Warrab, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western Bahr el Ghazal and Southern Kordofan States, while 6,569 returnees (1,637 households) were transported to their places of origin and choice within the Equatorias, within Blue Nile and from Wau to Warrab. In addition, a total of 7,182 IDPs (1,680 households) were transported from Southern Darfur to Northern Bahr el Ghazal.
In addition, 890 IDPs departed on 24 April from Bileil railway station in Nyala heading to Al Daein. The IDPs will be transported from El Daein to the way station in Kubo where they will have one day rest before crossing the river to enter Northern Bahr el Ghazal territories. The IDPs will be transported to the their home areas as they have previously indicated in Gok Machar, Ariate, Mayen Ulem, Marial Baae, Wan Jok and Mabior.
Five major convoy routes are currently being used to get IDPs back to their home communities. IOM assisted the return with transport assistance, medical screening, overnight accommodation en route and escorts.
From early May, road convoys will end to most states, only continuing to accessible parts of South Kordofan, Upper Nile and Unity States. As well in May, some barge movements are planned to those states not having priority for road convoys: Upper Nile, Jonglei, and Lakes states and air operations are planned to start to the Equatorias in about a month.
The UN partners to the Joint Plan are relying on the sustained financial commitments of the international community in order to ensure timely implementation of the Joint Plan to bring Internally Displaced people home and to help them restart their lives and livelihoods. Around 100,000 IDPs households have registered in Khartoum for return before December 2007.
Security and Humanitarian Developments in Darfur
In a statement issued on 24 April, the Chairman of the Ceasefire Commission said that Government forces carried out aerial bombings in Jira and Amry villages in North Darfur on 19 and 21 April respectively. He condemned the "unprovoked attack" as it happened at a time "when the Sudan Liberation Army - Non Signatory Factions (SLA-NSF) had extended invitations to the International Community to attend a planned Commanders' Conference." The statement says that the GoS authorities were duly informed of this event and their commitment was secured for the Conference to be held as scheduled.
On 24 April, a fire broke out in the Tawilla IDP camp (4 km West of El Fasher) destroying about 25% of the homes. Around 1,300 families were affected. Some IDPs were injured. AMIS intervened to put out the fire. UN agencies are in the process of delivering assistance to the affected population.
On 24 April, two unknown armed men forcibly entered an INGO guesthouse in Birmaza (70 km North of Kutum). They took at gun point a vehicle and forced one of the INGO staff to accompany them. They also looted a satellite phone. The INGO staff member was released about 5 km from the guesthouse. The INGO vehicle was recovered in Bhia (50km North of Tina). The vehicle was not damaged and is being returned to Birmaza.
On 25 April, the INGO national driver who was hijacked with an INGO vehicle on 19 April has been released near the Chad/Sudan border and returned to El Fasher. The vehicle is still missing.
On 25 April, six national INGO staff members and the driver and their privately rented vehicle were hijacked by three armed bandits in Agro IDP camp, near Tawilla (50 km West of El Fasher). The six staff members and driver were released approximately 5 km away and returned to Tawilla.
On 25 April, a man dressed in civilian clothing and armed with an AK47 and entered an INGO compound in Nyala. He entered the room of a national female staff member, pointed the AK47 at her head and attempted to rape her. The woman screamed and the perpetrator ran away.
Unknown armed men attacked an INGO vehicle on 23 April near Marla (55 km South East of Nyala, South Darfur). They shot at the vehicle. As a result two staff members were injured.
On 20 April, SLM/M. Minawi informed the UN that an accidental fire destroyed 2,500 huts in Muhajariya (South Darfur), and a s result, a total of 20,000 people are currently without shelters and food. OCHA is following up on the humanitarian situation.