The U.N. humanitarian chief warned Tuesday that international aid for millions of Darfur residents can not go on indefinitely and said the Sudanese government and rebels must negotiate a solution that would allow the displaced to return home.
John Holmes made the comments as he visited Kalma camp, home to around 100,000 of the more than 2.5 million people displaced by fighting in the large region of western Sudan since 2003.
Earlier this month, Holmes appealed for $2.2 billion in donations to fund U.N. aid for Sudan, most of which would go to Darfur. The world body is providing food and other supplies not only to residents of camps but also to 2 million more Darfuris who are affected by the war but remain in their homes.
Holmes said that while security in Darfur continues to deteriorate and more people are being displaced by violence, many cases are not emergencies because people are reasonably well settled in camps.
"People are not dying of starvation," he told reporters. But "the problem is that people have been in camps for four or five years now. We need to find some solutions quickly so we don't have to go on doing this indefinitely."
"It certainly depends on the generosity of the donors, which has been there so far. That generosity has its limits," Holmes added. "Obviously the thing is to find a solution, a negotiated solution which will allow people to go home and start their lives normally that is their objective."
The United Nations is trying to persuade Darfur rebels to open new peace negotiations with the Khartoum government after Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir offered a cease-fire and said he was willing to address some rebel demands. So far, rebels have rejected an immediate cease-fire, demanding Khartoum disarm the feared Arab militias known as janjaweed.
Meanwhile, government forces and airplanes have bombed roads and clashed with rebel fighters in some areas in northern Darfur since the cease-fire offer, feeding the rebels' distrust.
The conflict in Darfur has pitted the Arab-led Khartoum government against mainly ethnic African rebels who rose up in 2003, complaining of discrimination. Khartoum is accused of unleashing the janjaweed, who have waged a campaign of violence against ethnic African civilians, including killings and rapes. U.N. officials say up to 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict. The government says the figures are exaggerated.
Al-Bashir also faces a possible arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court after prosecutors there announced genocide charges against him for allegedly ordering the campaign against civilians. ICC prosecutors have also announced war crimes charges against three rebel leaders for allegedly leading a 2007 attack on U.N. peacekeepers.
Holmes on Tuesday met with tribal leaders in Kalma, some of whom asked for greater security, pointing to a government attack on the camp in August in which 33 residents were killed. Khartoum has said the operation aimed to root out gunmen sheltering in the camp.
Darfur has also seen an increase in attacks by armed bandits on aid workers, particularly hijackings of vehicles and equipment. Holmes warned that the attacks could effect efforts to get humanitarian help to Darfur residents outside the main camps.
So far, 170 aid workers were abducted this year, with 40 still missing. Eleven aid workers and 11 peacekeepers have been killed this year.