Sudan’s government and rebels must stop blocking missions by aid workers and peacekeepers in Darfur or risk breaking international law, says the head of the territory’s peacekeeping mission.
Ibrahim Gambari, the head of the joint U.N./African Union UNAMID force, told journalists both insurgents and government forces had prevented his mission from entering areas hit by a resurgence of violence over the past two months. Reuters reports
“We are demanding the lifting of restrictions on UNAMID and on the humanitarian community … Persistent restriction of such movements is a violation of international humanitarian law.”
Violence spiked in the mostly desert western region after the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) suspended participation in troubled peace talks in May. JEM was one of two rebel movements that took up arms against Sudan’s government in 2003, demanding more autonomy.
Gambari said some restriction on movement was justified when there was active fighting going on in an area.
“But when there is shooting, ways must be found to open up humanitarian corridors for the humanitarian community to deliver aid to those in need. This is a challenge not just for the government of Sudan but also for the rebel movements.”
Aid groups set up the world’s largest humanitarian operation to care for hundreds of thousands driven from their homes by the rebellion and a fierce counterinsurgency waged by government troops and allied, mostly Arab, militias.