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UN's Egeland says Sudan stops him going to Darfur

Written by: Staff

RUMBEK, Sudan, Apr 4: The UN's top humanitarian official in Sudan Jan Egeland said the government barred him on Monday from visiting Darfur to prevent him seeing poor conditions there.

The move came amid international pressure on the Sudanese government over unrelenting violence in Darfur that has made aid deliveries impossible in large parts of its vast western region.

''I've been barred from going to south Darfur, west Darfur and also I have been told that I am not welcome in Khartoum,'' Egeland, UN under-secretary for humanitarian affairs, told Reuters during a visit to southern Sudan yesterday.

''I think it is because they (the Sudanese government) don't want me to see how bad it is in Darfur.'' Tens of thousands have been killed and more than 2 million, mostly non-Arabs, have been driven from their homes during more than three years of rape, killing and pillage in Darfur.

The United Nations Mission in Sudan said it ''regrets'' the government's decision not to allow Egeland into Darfur and Khartoum as part of his five-day visit to assess the humanitarian relief operation in South Sudan and Darfur.

''We view these developments as disturbing -- deeply disturbing and we view them with serious concerns,'' US State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said in Washington.

''The fact of the matter is, innocent people continue to die in Darfur as a result of violence and a result of disease and malnourishment that is a consequence of the violence,'' he said.

''So there is a crying humanitarian need to address in Darfur.

And that's why it's so hard to understand why a government would refuse to allow a senior UN official responsible for providing release to a region to help its own citizens.'' Sudanese government officials were not immediately available for comment.

SECURITY PRECARIOUS Egeland described the situation as an ''eerie reminder'' of 2004, when aid workers were denied access at the point when the situation in Darfur was at its worst.

''This is symptomatic of the everyday problems my colleagues face everyday in Darfur, trying to feed nearly three million Darfuris to whom we are a lifeline,'' he said.

Egeland was speaking in southern Sudan, where he earlier said attacks by Ugandan rebels and a delay in aid payments were threatening the delivery of assistance to millions still suffering after the end of a north-south civil war.

''The security of humanitarian workers is precarious,'' Egeland said.

He urged the governments of Uganda, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo to stop attacks by Ugandan rebels of the Lord's Resistance Army on aid workers and civilians.

The cult-like LRA, which has waged a 20-year-long insurgency in northern Uganda, has bases in Sudan and Congo.

Humanitarian work in southern Sudan could be paralysed if the LRA is not stopped, Egeland had told journalists.

Former southern Sudanese rebels from the Sudan People's Liberation Army and the Khartoum government signed a peace deal last year to end the north-south civil war, Africa's longest, which claimed 2 million lives mainly through disease and hunger.


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