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Canadian exposes desperate crisis in East Africa

Photo: Amnesty_Chad

(NC)—“My father was shot and killed during the attack,” says 10-year-old Khadija in a refugee camp in eastern Chad. “We all ran away. I have never been so afraid in my life. In the past it was my father who made me feel okay when I was afraid, but he couldn't do that this time.”

Khadija was speaking with Alex Neve, head of the Canadian arm of the human rights organization Amnesty International (amnesty.ca). Neve was in a remote corner of eastern Chad at the end of last year, interviewing refugees who have streamed across the Sudan/Chad border escaping a surge in violence and human rights violations in Darfur, a region in western Sudan that has suffered a 10-year human rights crisis.

Neve found that tension was building fast along the Chad/Sudan border. The signs of a worsening human rights situation in Darfur had been growing for months. Fighting was raging between various ethnic groups on the Darfur side of the border, particularly between two Arab tribes, the Salamat and Misseriya, who had been allies in the past.

Tens of thousands of people were on the move. More than 30,000 crossed over into Chad as refugees in 2013, the highest number to flee in years. Some settled in refugee camps, others remained dispersed near the border.

Meanwhile, relations between Chad and Sudan are increasingly strained because the violence has been so close to their shared border. “Chad fears that the fighting might again spill over into its territory, as it has in the past,” Neve reports. “Sudan assumes that armed groups carrying out attacks in Sudan may use refugee camps in Chad for shelter.”

One young refugee told him that “it always feels like something could explode at any moment”. One more cattle raid. One more village attacked. One more wave of refugees and this region could explode.

“It is intolerable that this crisis of human rights abuse, forced displacement and conflict has gone on for a decade,” Neve says. “It is impossible to stand by and watch as it gets worse now. We must increase the pressure for real solutions to the Darfur crisis.”

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