Sudan: Darfur officials withdraw in protest at camp raid

KHARTOUM, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Eighteen Sudanese officials have withdrawn from posts in the Darfur region in protest at an attack by armed forces on a camp for displaced people that killed more than 30 people.

The officials are all from a former southern rebel group which signed a peace deal with the northern based government in 2005 to end a conflict that had no direct links to the fighting in Darfur.

"We have agreed to freeze our partnership with the national government. We are waiting in our homes. We are no longer in our positions," Omar Abdul Rahman Adam, minister of agriculture and irrigation for south Darfur state, told Reuters.

"We told them we would have no part in the government. We are not going to see security violating the law when we are part of the government," said Adam.

At least 32 people were killed when armed Sudanese forces raided Kalma camp in south Darfur last week, saying they were searching for weapons, U.N./African Union peacekeepers said. Aid sources said the dead included women and children.

The officials who withdrew from their posts were all members of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), a former southern rebel group that is now in a coalition government with the northern National Congress Party (NCP).

As part of the 2005 peace deal, former rebels took up official posts in Sudan's administration, including in Darfur.

Despite the fracture in the coalition on the ground in Darfur, it was unclear whether the withdrawal of the officials would have any implications at the national level. Senior SPLM officials made no immediate comment.

Adam said the 18 officials would only return to work when they felt the NCP was serious about solving the Darfur conflict. International experts say the conflict has killed 200,000 people and driven more than 2.5 million to refugee camps like Kalma.

Although there is no direct link between the north-south conflict and the one in Darfur, both are rooted in the feeling of marginalisation of people on Sudan's peripheries from traditionally Arab-dominated governments in Khartoum.

Kalma has long been a flashpoint. Sudanese politicians and army officers have regularly accused bandits and rebel groups of using it as a base and a store for weapons and explosives.

A spokesman for Sudan's armed forces said soldiers and police entered Kamla on Monday last week to search for arms and suspects. Government officials later accused the media of exaggerating the death toll.

But the U.N./African Union UNAMID peacekeeping force in Darfur criticised Sudan for using "excessive, disproportionate" force in the raid.

South Darfur's governor Ali Mahmoud told state media on Tuesday the withdrawal of the SPLM ministers and government members was illogical and dismissed it as a "political move".

(Additional reporting by Skye Wheeler in Juba)


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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