Friday, January 06, 2006

Like Wildfire: Somehow, the situation in Sudan is continuing to get worse than it already was. The Coalition for Darfur sends a message via e-mail.

This is not a good sign -- the situation in Darfur is worsening and has, in recent weeks, become tied to events in neighboring Chad.

In December 2004, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland warned that 100,000 people could die a month if humanitarian organizations are forced to suspend operations in Darfur.

In September 2005, Egeland warned "If (the violence) continues to escalate, we may not be able to sustain our operations for 2.5-million people requiring life-saving assistance. In Darfur, it (aid distribution) could all end tomorrow. It is as serious as that."

Now, the UN is pulling out all non-essential workers from parts of Darfur because this is exactly what is happening:

The United Nations has scaled back its staffing in parts of Sudan's war-torn western Darfur region following a buildup of forces along the country's border with Chad, U.N. officials said on Thursday.

Tensions have soared on both sides of the border in recent weeks after Chadian rebels based in Darfur, joined by Chadian army deserters, carried out several cross-border raids.

Several rebel groups last week said they were banding together to topple Chadian President Idriss Deby.

Deby accuses the Sudanese government in Khartoum of backing them and has urged the United Nations to take over Darfur's administration. Khartoum denies any involvement.

The decision to restrict staffing "does not mean there will be an overall evacuation," U.N. chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

"Essential life-saving humanitarian services delivered by the U.N. will continue, and the mission will monitor the situation and carry out a fresh security assessment of the area in the next two to three weeks," Dujarric said.

The move was "due to the increased instability in the affected areas, including a buildup of forces on ether side of the Sudan-Chad border, with increased potential for armed conflict," he said.

The border tensions have further complicated a debilitating civil war that has raged in Darfur since February 2003, pitting Sudanese rebels against government forces.

Tens of thousands have been killed and 2 million have left their homes for camps in Sudan and Chad to flee the fighting.

The area now hosts one of the world's largest humanitarian operations, with more than 11,000 aid workers struggling to feed, clothe and shelter inhabitants.

The Sudanese rebels began fighting to pressure the Arab-dominated central government to respond to the needs of Darfur's villagers. U.N. officials say Khartoum then armed Arab militias to fight the rebels, and that the militias launched a campaign of rape, killing and looting that continues to this day.

While the U.N. Security Council has demanded an end to the militia attacks, the government has yet to make real gains in doing so, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported last month. The council meets on Jan. 13 to discuss the situation.


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