Kalma: How to Turn a Solution into a Problem

Kalma camp in South Darfur is the most miserable of the region’s miserable camps. It is too big by far. Something like 90,000 people live in its shacks and mud-brick homes in a sprawling mass of humanity where seething tension frequently erupts into violence as tribe plots against tribe. Most charities dare not venture inside Kalma. Here’s how one of my colleagues summed it up last year.

The Sudanese authorities have long wanted it shut down. Most aid workers agree the camp is a disaster but fear closure will be exploited to ensure that the regime’s opponents suffer even more.

The African Union came up with a plan to restore stability: A three-month programme to clear guns from the camp. So far so good.

Only it seems this is not fast enough for the government. Tomorrow (Thursday) residents have been told they must begin giving up their guns. On Saturday, the army will go in.

I’m told residents have already begun building barricades. Aid agencies fear a mass exodus with thousands fleeing into the bush as Kalma burns. There they will be cut off from aid once again.

And to cap it all, the one aid official who might have made a difference was kicked out a couple of weeks ago. Coincidence?

As one aid worker put it to me…”With Wael gone the UN really is in disarray down there and there is no-one left to kick up a fuss.” 

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