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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2007, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Janjaweed still roam free in Darfur
By Karen Allen
BBC News, Chad-Sudan border

Bleached by the sun and encrusted in sand, Kirinding camp, just outside El Geneina, is a bleak place, with straw fashioned into huts to offer shelter for the people here.

Gunmen in Um Shalaya
Sudan's police and armed forces work in tandem with the Janjaweed

It is home to some 30,000 people who have fled their homes in west Darfur.

The so-called sheikhs, the leadership of the camp, are remarkably frank when the UN's refugee chief, Antonio Guterres, comes to speak to them.

"The main security problem we are facing is that we are threatened by the Janjaweed [Arab militias]. Janjaweed keep us at home from 6 pm. to 6 am. We cannot leave our homes," says Jumar Zachira Omar.

He talks of the sound of gun fire ringing out after dark and of an African Union force that is too impotent to intervene. Seven AU peacekeepers have been killed in the past month alone and night patrols have been stopped.

Just an hour before, Mr Guterres had assurances from local dignitaries that 80% of west Darfur is safe.


As we withdraw to find a place to sleep for the night, men on pickup trucks with mounted guns on the back speed past.


"These are the Janjaweed," our driver tells us. While they are confined to riding on camels, these government-backed Arab militias are roaming free.

AU commanders tell us they're "not being arrested" despite intimidating the local population.

This and the presence of rival rebel groups in what's become a more deadly and complex conflict means areas like Sirba, just north of El Geneina, are virtual no-go areas for AU troops.

Mr Guterres is urging all sides to re-engage in peace a year since the cobbled together agreement signed in Abuja that admitted key rebel groups was dismissed as an abject failure.

People need to learn again to live together as they've done for centuries
Antonio Guterres
UN refugee chief

Now Darfur is seeing the consequences of that dash to achieve peace in the rampant insecurity and the growing fragmentation among Arab militias and rebel groups.

"The government and the different rebel groups must understand the need to make peace," says Mr Guterres.

"With peace comes disarmed militia, with peace comes the capacity to fight banditry - to fight all forms of conflict... People need to learn again to live together as they've done for centuries in a rebuilt Darfur."

Deeply intertwined

The influx of refugees from neighbouring Chad is only fuelling a humanitarian crisis which has already seen more than two million people flee from their homes.

Chadian children in Um Shalaya
Chadians have fled into Darfur to seek safety

Sixty-five kilometres from the border, at Um Shalaya camp, west Darfur, 5,000 people from Chad have sought refuge, caught up in the same conflict which like a festering wound is spreading across the region.

A further 20,000 Chadians are clustered on the border, hoping that soon they'll return home.

A little boy at Un Shalaya camp, who can't be older than about six, has made a model of a pickup truck with a mounted gun on the back. One can only imagine what this little boy has seen.

His teacher, Izak Omar, puts it into words: "There are a lot of problems up at the border with Chad. On a daily basis people are being killed - sometimes one a day, two in the day, or sometimes it goes to 15 men in a day."

The Sudanese government and its Chadian neighbour accuse each other of backing rebel movements. Two countries whose histories are deeply intertwined are now entangled in conflict.

The government in Khartoum accused of fomenting violence and fuelling ethnic hatred is under pressure to allow better equipped UN peacekeepers in.

Last week it finally caved in to pressure to admit 3,000 UN peacekeepers, a sixth of the deployment diplomats say is needed to help bring the violence under control.

Ultimately it will be a political solution, not a military one that seals Darfur's fate.

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