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SLUG: 2-314191 Sudan / Security (L O)
TITLE=SUDAN / SECURITY (L-O)
INTRO: Sudanese refugees fleeing violence in their country have told U-N officials they will not go back home until their safety is assured. As Cathy Majtenyi reports from Nairobi, the Sudanese government is accused of backing the militias terrorizing civilians in western Sudan.
TEXT: The United Nations estimates the Sudanese war has displaced up to three million people within Sudan and forced another 600-thousand to flee to neighboring countries.
Most of the refugees interviewed by a delegation from the U-N refugee agency said they will not return to Sudan as long as violence continues.
The inspector general for the refugee agency, Dennis McNamara, says the Sudanese refugees' number one concern is security.
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Is it really safe? Peace agreements are fine, but is it really safe on the ground? Can we go back? Are the militias disarmed? What about all the guns? That was the widespread number one issue: protection (and) security.
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The Sudanese government and the country's main rebel group, who have been negotiating in Kenya for more than a year, are close to reaching a peace agreement. The United Nations said it would help the refugees to go back to their country in the first 18 months after a peace deal is signed.
But despite progress at the talks, fighting in Sudan continues, particularly in the western region of Darfur.
The human rights group Amnesty International on Tuesday condemned the Sudanese government for failing to protect people in Darfur from attacks by Arab militias, called Janjaweed, who are widely believed to be supported by the Sudanese government.
Earlier this month, Sudan's minister of foreign affairs, Mustafa Osman, Ismail told reporters his government is, in his words, committed and determined to disarm all militias in Darfur, including the Janjaweed militia. He denied that the Sudanese government is supporting the Janjaweed.
But the Sudan researcher at Amnesty International, Frank Smith, disagrees.
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Evidence on the ground seems to contradict the government's message that they are trying to disarm the militia. We keep getting reports that the government is supporting the Janjaweed militia.
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According to Amnesty International, Janjaweed militias have killed and injured scores of civilians over the past few weeks and have burned at least 10 villages in the region. There have also been reports of schoolgirl rapes.
Aid workers report the fighting is creating a humanitarian crisis for civilians near the fighting. They say people are going hungry and many are suffering from high fever, diarrhea and other diseases. (Signed)
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