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SUDAN: UN official calls for freedom of movement

NAIROBI, 26 March 2007 (IRIN) - Aid workers in the troubled western Sudanese region of Darfur are frequently prevented from doing their jobs by being denied access to certain areas, United Nations Under-Secretary-General John Holmes said.

"The United Nations and its NGO [non-governmental organisation] partners are keeping these people alive - and we are not allowed in. We should be allowed to move freely," Holmes said on Saturday, after being denied permission to visit Kassab camp for internally displaced persons in North Darfur state.

"I fear this is typical of what aid workers trying to make a difference in Darfur deal with on a daily basis," he added.

Holmes, who is on a two-week mission to Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), was travelling to Kassab when his convoy was stopped in Kutum town, and told he could not visit the camp - home to 22,700 displaced people. The government-controlled town is about 120km north of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur.

Half a dozen international NGOs and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) work in Kutum, some of whom have only recently returned after temporarily or partially suspending their programmes due to the deteriorating security situation in the area.

Before going to Darfur, Holmes urged the international community to help the people of southern Sudan, especially the hundreds of thousands of displaced returning to their homes after the end of the civil war two years ago.

During a visit to the southern capital of Juba, Holmes met Sudanese First Vice-President and President of the government of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, his Vice-President, Riek Machar, UN and other officials.

He called for a political solution to the Darfur crisis. "If there isn’t a peaceful resolution in Darfur, it is much harder to maintain peace in the rest of Sudan, including in the South," he said.

Kiir said he had called for an all-Darfur conference in April to build consensus between warring parties in the region. "I have called for an all-Darfur conference to take place in Juba in April and I will be calling on you to contribute to this endeavour," Kiir told donors in Juba.

Holmes also discussed the stalled peace talks between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) with Machar, who is chief mediator. "It is easier to achieve peace in southern Sudan if there is peace in Darfur and peace for the LRA as well; we are supporting all those developments," he told a news conference.

He was accompanied by the deputy special representative of the UN Secretary-General in Sudan, Manuel da Silva, and other officials.



Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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