The United Nations said Tuesday that Sudan had to disarm militias in Darfur before those displaced by the conflict could return home, rebutting a push by President Omar al-Bashir to close the camps.
Bashir, indicted for genocide and war crimes related to the Darfur conflict, said earlier this month that the crisis in the region had ended and that it was time to shut camps hosting hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs).
But in a new report, the UN human rights office and African Union mission in Darfur indicated that Bashir’s call was premature.
In a statement, the rights office urged Khartoum “to carry out a prompt and comprehensive disarmament of armed militias to create an enabling and safe environment for internally displaced people to return”.
Any moves to close camps needed to include the input of those displaced, many of whom likely do not feel ready to leave, the UN said.
“I urge the Government to address fundamental issues that are preventing the return of displaced people, such as continued violence, including from armed militias,” UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said in a statement.
Even though a 2016 ceasefire is largely holding, violence against those forced from their homes has persisted, the report said.
In most of the 66 camps across Darfur, the UN and AU have documented continuing incidents of shooting, rape and other abuses, it added.
Darfur has “recovered”
Bashir, who is wanted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court, has insisted that Darfur has “recovered” and that the government does not “want any more IDPs”.
He accused international humanitarian organisations of exploiting Darfur’s people to raise money.
The conflict in Darfur broke out in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Bashir’s Arab-dominated government, accusing it of marginalising the region economically and politically.
The UN says the conflict has killed about 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million, most of whom still live in large camps.
Bashir denies committing war crimes and genocide in Darfur.