Sudan: Darfur camp resident say face threats from security

By Amil Khan

AL-FASHER, Sudan, July 28 (Reuters) - Sudanese security threatened refugees in Darfur with arrest and beatings to find out what they told Condoleezza Rice when she visited their camp, U.N. sources told Reuters on Thursday.

The U.S. secretary of state spoke to a number of people in Abo Shouk camp near the town of al-Fasher during her visit last week. She told reporters Sudan had a "credibility problem" over Darfur and that she wanted to see "actions not words".

"They (Sudanese security officials) have threatened and harassed people after high-profile visits. They want to know what people said ... People were harassed after Rice's visit," a U.N. source in al-Fasher said.

"(They were) threatened with prison and beatings," the source added.

Around 2 million people have been driven from their homes since rebels in Sudan's western Darfur region launched a rebellion against the government, accusing the authorities of supporting Arab militias who looted and burnt their villages.

The government denies it arms the militias and says that camp residents are not prevented from talking to foreign officials or media.

"There is no intention to block information ... No one denies the right of the people in the camps to complain about their situation," said a Sudanese official, who did not wish to be named.

Camp residents complain security inside the camps is poor.

"We are scared inside the camp. The same people who attacked us, we see them in the camp," said Ahmed, one resident.

Ahmed was one of a group of camp residents who spoke to journalists and aid workers at a compound outside the camp for fear of reprisals from Sudanese security.

Other camp residents said beatings were common and men had been detained by security officials.


A U.N. source at Kalma camp in Nyala said detentions carried out by Sudanese security increased after a May visit by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. A senior U.N. official said Sudanese security harassed Annan's translator after the secretary-general met rape victims.

One of the U.N. sources said Sudanese officials went to Abo Shouk camp before Rice's visit and tried to persuade residents to portray the government in a positive light.

One U.N. source said aid workers were concerned about the presence of Sudanese police and national security personnel inside the camp. The source also said residents had reported some had been detained without notification of their families.

"The emergency law allows for enormous power to detain and not tell anyone," said the source.

Sudan's new national unity government lifted the state of emergency in the whole country except in Darfur and the east, where rebels are also fighting the government.

Analysts say the international community hopes new First Vice President John Garang, a former southern rebel leader, will help to find a solution to the Darfur conflict.

Garang's Sudan People's Liberation Army signed a peace deal with the government in January, ending more than two-decades of civil war.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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