UN relief chief urges access to Darfur region
|The Guardian, 08 Mai 2006|
UN peacekeepers must be allowed into Darfur to end the suffering of more than two million people forced from their homes, the organisation's top humanitarian official said yesterday.
Jan Egeland, who was visiting the war-torn region in western Sudan, said a recent surge in insecurity meant that aid work had been severely curtailed. A 7,000-strong African Union peacekeeping mission has been largely powerless in halting attacks on villages and aid convoys.
Sudan's government and the main rebel group in Darfur signed a peace agreement on Friday to end more than three years of fighting, raising hopes that the "blue helmets" might be allowed to take over the peacekeeping mission.
The government had said it would only consider allowing this once a peace deal was signed.
"Darfur is slowly being strangled, it's dying in front of us," Mr Egeland, the UN's emergency relief coordinator, told the BBC from south Darfur. "Half of the population now has become war victims. We are turning the corner, but the whole world has to put pressure on the parties."
Since the peace deal, which was boycotted by Darfur's two smaller rebel groups, casting doubt on whether it would work, the Khartoum government has sent out mixed messages about a UN deployment.
On Friday, a government spokesman indicated that this was little more than a formality, but yesterday a foreign ministry spokesman, Jamal Muhammad Ibrahim, said: "It has to come after an assessment by the Sudan government. If the need arises, Sudan may decide to do so. Otherwise no one has the right to impose foreign forces on Sudan."