Sudan

Refugee women, children must be protected in Sudan, Rice says

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Secretary of state interviewed at Abu Shouk Camp in Sudan

By Helen I. Rouce, Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The international community needs "to demand action" from the Sudanese government to reduce violence against women in its refugee camps, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said July 21 in an interview with CNN at Abu Shouk Camp in Al Fashar, Sudan.

"The stories are unbelievable, but they are true," Rice said, when asked about reports of women victimized by rape. "And so I said to them [the women in the camp] that we would try to make it better, that we would ... see what more could be done about the security."

On the plight of the camp's children, Rice told reporters traveling with her, "We've got to make every effort" to enable them to leave the camps "because these children need to grow up at home, not in a refugee camp."

Considering the likelihood that the Sudanese government will allow real improvements in the camps, Rice acknowledged to CNN's Andrea Koppel that the government does have "a credibility problem with the international community because there are promises that have not been kept."

But now, Rice said, "it is a new day in Sudan. ... They are forming a national unity government with people who also lived in terrible conditions at one time in this country. And so we have to support that process while insisting that the unified Sudanese government do everything that it can to improve the situation."

Rice said she had just met with former rebel leader John Garang, who will be a part of the new government.

Rice also told the traveling press reporters that she had heard "that cooperation is better from the Khartoum government in terms of humanitarian access and the like."

"But obviously," she said, "the real answer here is to move forward on the security issues and on the peace issues. It was very good to see the Rwandan soldiers coming in," she added, and she mentioned additional efforts by the African Union, NATO, and the European Union.

"So there is an international effort," she said. "I think we just have to ask how we can accelerate that international effort so that these children can grow up someplace else."

Seeing the refugee camps firsthand has made a difference, Rice told Koppel. "I understand at a level that I think you can only understand by being here that it is, of course, a complex issue."

In the long run, she said, "these children need to be schooled in their homes. That means that there has to be somehow protection for these villages, the ability for a peace settlement." But in the short term, she said, "we have got to keep everything that we can going to the humanitarian assistance to these people and to improve the security."

Rice said she would talk to the African Union about how to get more forces into the area. "The Sudanese government said they would accept whatever numbers the AU could provide," she added.

"The united government of Sudan has a responsibility for this," she said, "and the international community is going to hold them to it."

'We have a big and complex task," she told ABC's Andrea Mitchell. "But I do think it's important to come here and remind people of the human beings that live here."

In addition to the CNN and ABC interviews and her interview with the traveling reporters, Rice was also interviewed by National Public Radio and by NBC and CBS television. Transcripts of the secretary's July 21 interviews are available on the State Department's Web site.

Rice traveled to Sudan following a stop at the fourth annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum in Dakar, Senegal.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)