U.N.'s Annan Hears Sudan Refugees' Stories
JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jennifer Ludden.
Last year, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region `an emergency of catastrophic proportions.' Since then, marauding militias have driven tens of thousands more people from their homes; many tens of thousands have been killed. Annan called this week for the dispatch of more African peacekeepers, and today Kofi Annan traveled again to Darfur. One person with him was George Rupp, president of the International Rescue Committee. He says Annan made to two stops: to an overcrowded refugee camp and a burned-out village, Labado, where some Sudanese were starting to resettle.
Mr. GEORGE RUPP (International Rescue Committee): Of the 12,000 people who have returned to Labado, I would guess virtually all of them were out to greet the secretary-general when he came today. They were all gathered around the central square, far too many people for the secretary-general to address, but he and our delegation simply walked around this whole throng of people who were cheering wildly a word of welcome to Kofi Annan and were clearly deeply appreciative of the fact that the African Union had provided the core security which was allowing them to restart their lives.
LUDDEN: How was the secretary-general greeted in the refugee camp?
Mr. RUPP: The scene at Kalma camp is--there are 120,000 people living very, very close to each other inside this compound, and they're gathered there in order to be provided with security, to have barely adequate shelter, food, health services, which the International Rescue Committee is involved in providing. The care is much better now than it was a year ago, and people have at least the minimum of security. But it cannot possibly be a long-term solution. The only long-term solution is for them to be able to go back to the villages from which they were driven out and take up their lives as farmers and be able to support themselves.
LUDDEN: Well, it seems like even people inside the camp might be exposed. The wires are saying that people who've been attacked and killed and even raped inside the refugee camp were talking with the secretary-general.
Mr. RUPP: One person commented on that, and there was a group of women with whom Kofi Annan spoke to privately, and I don't know exactly what transpired there, but I have no doubt that some of those women reported sexual assaults. Whether they occurred inside the camp or outside the camp I cannot say with any certainty.
LUDDEN: Now in addition to what's been happening in the western Darfur region, I understand that you are seeing troubles in the eastern part of Sudan. What's happening?
Mr. RUPP: Well, east up by the Red Sea is perhaps the poorest region of Sudan, and there is a feeling that at least some of the tribes in that area have been excluded from discussions, and the concern on the part, I think, of the Sudanese government as well as others of us that there--that could be a next area of conflict.
LUDDEN: George Rupp is president of the International Rescue Committee and spoke with us from Khartoum, Sudan. Thank you.
Mr. RUPP: Thank you very much. Bye-bye.