KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan has denied aid agencies access to Darfur’s Kalma camp after five people were killed there and thousands fled when divisions over peace talks turned violent, humanitarian officials said on Friday.
Kalma is home to 100,000 Darfuris and has traditionally been a stronghold of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army, which is not taking part in the Doha talks trying to end Darfur’s 7-year war.
U.N.-African Union peacekeepers (UNAMID) have been in a stand-off with South Darfur’s government and Khartoum since five men and a woman sought refuge in their Kalma police base during the violence late last month. Thousands of people also fled their homes to seek refuge near the UNAMID base.
“We’re still engaging with local and national government to try and get access into Kalma and Bilal (a nearby village) -- both have been denied,” Sam Hendricks, a U.N. spokesman said.
Another U.N. source told Reuters those still in Kalma were running short of food and water and sporadic gunfire was still heard at night despite intensified UNAMID patrols.
UNAMID said heavy rain further threatened the health of those in the camp.
“Aid groups still await permission to enter the camp,” it said in a statement.
In New York, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has had no access to Kalma since August 2.
U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy told reporters in New York that a few local Sudanese aid groups have been allowed into Kalma, but not international agencies.
OCHA has also been denied access to the eastern part of Darfur’s Jebel Marra region since February, Haq said.
Sudan’s top aid official in South Darfur, Jamal Youssef, denied preventing agencies from accessing Kalma, saying he thought most people had left for villages north and east of the camp, where they had allowed aid agencies to access.
“They will report back on Saturday and then we can sit and discuss Kalma,” he told Reuters from South Darfur.
Hendricks said those villages had some people who fled Kalma but many others who had not.
Sudan reluctantly accepted UNAMID in 2007 after months of negotiations but relations have been tense since the world’s largest U.N.-funded peacekeeping mission deployed.
Sudan says the six who sought refuge with UNAMID are criminals accused of instigating the violence and demand UNAMID hand them over, accusing the force of creating a “state within a state” in Kalma, where the government has no presence because of hostility from the Darfuri residents.
UNAMID has so far refused to hand them over in a case which many see as a make or break for the mission. If the six are guilty of a crime the peacekeepers would be violating Sudan’s sovereign right to arrest them. But UNAMID will need to guarantee a fair trial for them if they do hand them over.
Le Roy said UNAMID had told Khartoum they should drop the request to hand over the six.
“We told Khartoum that it (the request) is not in their interest,” he said. “We are still discussing this with them.”
The International Criminal Court accuses Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of genocide in Darfur’s counter-insurgency campaign, which drove 2 million from their homes and sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters in Sudan.
Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau at the United nations; Editing by Vicki Allen