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Sudanese people live in fear'

12/14/2005 8:03am

Nyala - Civilians made homeless by the devastating civil war in Sudan's western region of Darfur say they remain prey to attack by militiamen because they are unable to survive on the meagre relief supplies provided in their camps.

In the huge al-Sereif and Otach camps, near Nyala, women were among those who said they were forced to leave the protection of their tent cities to find food and firewood, despite persistent reports of rape of camp residents by the state-sponsored Arab militias.

Hussein Hassan Abdul Rahman, 83, said: "It is safe inside the camp, but outside of it, it is dangerous."

He said Arab militiamen from the Habbaniyah tribe had attacked his wife seven months ago, outside the camp.

Arab-dominated regime

Rahman said: "She was stabbed with a bayonet and stayed in Nyala Hospital for 16 days to get treated."

Abdul Rahman said the violence was all the more baffling, because although he had been born a Massalit, one of the non-Arab ethnic groups behind the uprising launched against the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum in early 2003, he had been assimilated into the Arab Rizeigat tribe among whom he grew up.

Despite his Arabic culture, the octogenarian said he was now too fearful to leave the camp.

He said: "I may get killed and leave my children behind without anyone to take care of them."

Militiamen on camels

In the nearby al-Sereif camp, Ishaq Yahia Nada, 59, of the non-Arab Tama ethnic group said Arab militiamen on one foray outside the camp had attacked him and his wives.

He said: "My wives and I go outside the camp to gather straw and firewood and sell for a living", adding that his two wives had born him eight children.

On one occasion, militiamen on camels had attacked them and he had been "hit with an axe below my ear and remained in Nyala Hospital for eight days to recover".

Fatima, 55, a non-Arab Zaghawa, said African Union peacekeepers escorted the camp's women outside to look for firewood once a week on Tuesdays, but added that it was not enough.

She said: "We have to go and fetch firewook on other days, although we know it is risky because we may face Janjaweed (militiamen)."

Security problems

Chief inspector Lydia Otu-Nyarku of Ghana, who heads the AU police force in the camp, played down the continuing security problems facing residents.

She said: "We run patrols in shifts round the clock inside and around the camp along with a Sudanese police force", adding that she had 23 officers at her command, five of them women.

Otu-Nyarku said: "It has become safe and we are not facing any security problems, whether inside or outside the camp, and armed men quietly move away if they happen to see us patrolling outside the camps."

Camp director Ahmed Ali also played down the problems facing al-Sereif's 13 682 displaced civilians.

He said: "The internally displaced persons are leading a normal life in the camp and some of them have grown vegetables around their tents."

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