Sudan says UN Jebel Marra attacks claim and displacement figure is inaccurate

Golo/Khartoum, March 1, 2016 (SSNA) —The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dismissed reports by the UN on the number of people who have been displaced by the fighting between the army and rebel forces in Darfur’s Jebel Marra since 15 January. OCHA, the coordinating office of the UN’s humanitarian affairs, reported on Thursday that more than 90,000 people from Jebel Marra are estimated to be displaced by the conflict as of 21 February. ‘This includes 87,500 new internally displaced persons in North Darfur, according to aid organisations, and 2,750 displaced in Central Darfur’, OCHA’s weekly news bulletin read.

The spokesman for the Ministry, Ali El Sadig, said that those figures are “based on verbal and hearsay information” from persons who are not able to reach inner Jebel Marra. According to El Sadig’s press statement on Monday, the number of displaced people by the fighting has reached 73,000. He claimed that most have returned to their home villages after the end of the military operations, and that government authorities have provided much humanitarian aid to these returnees. The spokesman added that Khartoum has denied international aid agencies access to the people in the affected areas in order to ensure “the safety of the workers operating at the UN and the humanitarian activists.”

The government’s military operations against the rebel SLM-AW stronghold in Jebel Marra have not yet come to an end, although for the first time since 15 January, no Sudanese aircraft were reported above west Jebel Marra for a full day on Sunday. The following morning, residents in the western part of the mountains woke up to loud explosions around Golo, one of them told Radio Dabanga.

Tens of thousands of people who have fled their villages remain trapped in Jebel Marra’s mountain top and caves, and the health situation continues to deteriorate. “There is no adequate supply to treat the newly displaced. More and more children suffer from malnutrition,” a witness from west Jebel Marra said. Diseases such as diarrhoea, flu, and malaria are becoming common. Another concern is that displaced students are unable to sit for their final exams.

Travelling to schools in Nierteti is dangerous because of the closed roads. Militiamen in Golo assaulted and robbed a number of school boys of their belongings on Monday, as they were on their way to sit for the basic stage exams. Several of them have gone missing, their parents told Radio Dabanga on Monday.

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