In response to alarming developments in the Kalma camp in Darfur, home to an estimated 100,000 internally displaced persons, or IDPs, both Save Darfur Coalition and Physicians for Human Rights have issued strong statements of concern. Last week, the Sudanese government began denying humanitarian aid groups access to Kalma camp in response to UNAMID’s decision not to hand over five IDP leaders to the government. The leaders sought haven with the peacekeepers after violence broke out in the camp last week, allegedly over peace talks in Doha.
Frank Donaghue, CEO of Physicians for Human Rights, said in a statement issued yesterday:
The camp is home to 90,000 children, women and men who have fled genocidal attacks by Sudanese forces and proxy militia since 2003. And now the Government of Sudan has blocked their access to life-saving humanitarian aid since August 2, 2010. The camps aren’t capable of sustaining life without food, water and medicine the people in the camps will begin to die, just as surely as if the government were attacking them with conventional weapons.
The government has issued increasingly hostile rhetoric this week. On Sunday, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir threatened to expel any aid groups that prevented the government from exercising its authority. A Darfur official raised the possibility that Kalma camp could be dismantled, calling the camp a “military base and political platform” for one of the main Darfuri rebel groups. In response, Mark Lotwis, acting president of the Save Darfur Coalition, made this statement:
“This atrocious behavior demonstrates the Government of Sudan’s low regard for the health and safety of Darfuri civilians. The United States and international community must pressure the Government of Sudan to allow immediate, unimpeded access for UN agencies and humanitarian aid organizations throughout Darfur, and support the UNAMID peacekeeping force’s work to protect civilians in and around Kalma camp, in accordance with the force’s recently renewed mandate stressing civilian protection.”
Remarkably, no Obama administration official – not even the president’s special envoy to Sudan – has directly acknowledged the current violence and threats in Kalma camp. At a moment when civilians are increasingly endangered and humanitarian workers are at risk of being expelled, take action now and ask Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to engage on civilian protection in Sudan.