Video: 'To do nothing would be unacceptable'

updated 12/23/2006 5:48:27 PM ET 2006-12-23T22:48:27

Thousands of people who fled to Chad from Sudan’s Darfur region pleaded with the U.N.’s top refugee official on Friday to either move them or protect them against cross-border raids which have killed hundreds.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres visited the Goz Amer refugee camp near Koukou Angarana, close to the border with Darfur, where Arab raiders attacked two villages last weekend, killing Sudanese refugees and Chadian civilians.

“When we see these villages, burned last week with 40 people killed and now 90,000 Chadians displaced, one can understand the huge security problem,” Guterres said, referring to the total number of people uprooted over the past year.

“The international community has a great responsibility to create a humanitarian space so we can keep working. To do nothing would be unacceptable,” he said.

The east of Chad borders Sudan’s Darfur region where a political and ethnic conflict since 2003 has killed tens of thousands of people and spilled over into neighbouring states.

Some 70 villages in southeastern Chad have been attacked since early November by gunmen on horseback using identical tactics to those of the Janjaweed militia fighting over the border in Darfur, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said.

It said the recent violence had killed some 300 Chadians.

Chad’s government has said the attackers gouged out the eyes of some soldiers and disembowelled one civilian in the latest raids. Officials have blamed the attacks on the Janjaweed, a term loosely signifying “devils on horseback” in Arabic.

'Remove us quickly'
Terrified of more attacks, refugees lining the road leading to the Goz Amer camp, which houses some 18,000 civilians from Darfur, chanted “security or relocation” as Guterres arrived. “Please remove us quickly from here,” read one placard.

Guterres also met displaced Chadians at Habile, a makeshift camp housing around 9,000 people, more than half of them displaced over the past two months.

“If you can’t give us security, you have to move us from here,” one displaced village chief was quoted as telling Guterres in a UNHCR communique. “We are poor people and we don’t have the means to defend ourselves.”

The U.N. refugee chief met Chad’s President Idriss Deby on Thursday and has been looking at a proposal by the authorities in the former French colony to move the refugee camps some 310 miles further from the Sudan border.

“Relocating refugees further away from the border could improve security, but such a move also requires a suitable environment and infrastructure for hosting more than 200,000 people,” UNHCR said in its statement.

It said U.N. and government experts were preparing a report on the proposal. The refugee agency also said it was supporting calls for strengthened security in eastern Chad for refugees and local civilians.

Outgoing U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has launched a last-ditch effort for a “hybrid” peacekeeping force in Darfur consisting of African Union troops with U.N. resources.

Sudan has strongly rejected the possibility of Western troops on its soil, which the Islamic state has likened to a second colonisation.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


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