Darfur mediators face violent protests

Dec 1, 2010


ZALENGEI, Sudan (Reuters) – Hundreds of angry students threw stones at Darfur mediators, including a Qatari minister, on Wednesday in a tour of the region that was marred by violence, protests and reports that police killed two people.

Wednesday’s violence was the second time in two days the team negotiating peace between Darfur’s rebels and the government had to flee angry Darfuris, frustrated by the absence of a peace deal after years of conflict.

The United Nations estimates 300,000 people died in a humanitarian crisis in Darfur caused by a government counter-insurgency campaign that Washington has branded genocide. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

Repeated rounds of peace talks have been dogged by military clashes and divisions among the rebels. The two main insurgent groups are not participating in the latest talks hosted by Qatar.

Two Reuters journalists traveling with the delegation saw the mediators blockaded into the university in Zalengi by a mob of angry students.

“Bassole is a foreign agent,” many shouted, referring to the chief mediator, Djibril Bassole.

When the delegation eventually managed to leave, the students threw stones at their convoy and hit the cars with sticks, breaking the windows of two U.N. cars. Sudanese police then fired into the air.

REBEL STRONGHOLD

Zalengei, in West Darfur, is a stronghold of rebel leader Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur.

Two residents of Zalengei town who were at the protest told Reuters that two people had been killed and five injured.

“The police began shooting randomly and two people were killed,” one resident said. The men declined to be named for fear of arrest.

Government officials were not immediately available to comment on the residents’ reports.

On Tuesday, the delegation, including Bassole and Qatari Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Mahmoud, had to flee after angry civil society activists stormed a meeting in South Darfur’s capital Nyala, insisting they also be heard.

U.N.-African Union peacekeepers restrained the activists and rushed the mediators to safety outside the meeting room.

The demonstrations illustrate the anger of Darfuris, who feel neglected after repeated promises by successive international delegations that peace is coming.

More than 2 million Darfuris have fled their homes and are languishing in miserable makeshift camps.

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