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SUDAN: Tight security in Khartoum as gov't claims coup attempt

KHARTOUM, 27 September 2004 (IRIN) - Sudanese security forces set up roadblocks, searched vehicles and houses and intensified surveillance around the capital, Khartoum, after the government on Friday accused the Islamist opposition Popular National Congress Party of former speaker Hasan Abdullah al-Turabi of plotting to overthrow President Umar Hasan al-Bashir's administration.

Bashir, in a meeting with supporters from eastern Sudan, said a plot had been uncovered to capture power "regardless of what might happen to the people" of Sudan. He said the foiled coup
attempt was "plotted under the leadership and direction" of Turabi.

"We shall fulfill all our duties towards our homeland and defend the rights of the Sudanese people," Bashir said. "There is true conspiracy against Sudan through the use of sedition, alleged racial cleansing and genocide."

An opposition leader dismissed the alleged plot. "It is all made up to divert international attention and pressure over the Darfur conflict and other related issues," Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) spokesman Samson Kwaje told reporters in Nairobi.

Bashir, speaking in another report carried by Sudanese TV on Sunday said: "We truly applaud the citizens' cooperation and their patience regarding the security measures [which] are bothering everyone. But the harassment, which comes as a result of security measures, is easier for the people than the consequences which could arise as a result of a security breach."

"This attempt has been completely foiled, because all major weapons, except for a few which are in the hands of some people, have been seized," he added. "All senior leaders and field commanders have been arrested, and the rest, God willing, will be arrested in the next few days."

On 8 September, Sudanese authorities arrested 14 members of the Popular National Congress Party, saying they were attempting to sabotage the peace. Extra police, military and security personnel were deployed on Khartoum streets.

The government last year accused Turabi of sedition and claimed that his party was supporting the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in the western region of Darfur. The JEM, one of the two rebel groups that are active in Darfur, claims to be fighting to end the marginalisation of the area.

Turabi helped Bashir to gain power in a 1989 coup and was a key ally of the president for a decade. In 1999 he fell out with Bashir after signing an agreement with the SPLM/A agreeing to oppose the government’s "totalitarian course" and acknowledging the right of southern Sudanese to self-determination. He was arrested twice, in February 2001 and in March 2003, then released. His party was banned in March and Turabi placed under house arrest.

UN urges help for Darfur IDPs

Meanwhile, Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Saturday that the vast numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the troubled western Sudanese Darfur region, had continued to live in a climate of fear, with no confidence in the authorities who have the responsibility to protect them from ongoing abuses.

Arbour and Juan Méndez, the UN Secretary-General's special adviser on the prevention of genocide, are expected to present a report to the Security Council this week following their visit to Darfur and Khartoum to explore measures that would improve the protection of civilians in Darfur, the UN reported.

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Council: "The tragedy in Darfur is one of the greatest challenges the international community faces today. The whole world is watching this tragedy unfold, and it is watching us. No one can be allowed to sidestep or ignore their responsibility to protect the innocent civilians."

"Our urgent task is to do everything we can to help protect the people of Darfur from further humanitarian suffering, terrible violence, and human rights abuses, and to bring their agony to an end," he said, urging UN member countries to support a stronger African Union presence in order to contain the violence.

"The crisis in Darfur is not simply an African problem. It concerns the entire international community. Whatever name we give it, it imposes responsibilities on all of us. We must all rise to this challenge," Annan added.

The conflict in Darfur pits the Sudanese military and militias said to be allied to the government against rebels fighting to end alleged marginalisation and discrimination of Darfur residents by the state. The militias, locally known as Janjawid, have been accused of committing
atrocities against civilians.

The fighting, which erupted early last year, has displaced about 1.45 million people and sent another 200,000 fleeing across the border into Chad. The UN has described problems spawned by the fighting in Darfur as currently the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

On Thursday, Ruud Lubbers, the head of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, suggested that the Sudanese government should give autonomy to the western Darfur region to help end the rebellion. "My gut feeling is the best would be that Sudan finds itself in a way where it accepts relative autonomies of regions," the former Dutch prime minister told reporters in Chad.

"Crisis within a crisis" in the south - ECHO

In Brussels, Xavier Perez Aparicio, Sudan desk officer for the Humanitarian Aid Office of the European Commission (ECHO), said the situation in southern Sudan, where a 2002 ceasefire between Khartoum and rebels is in place, as a "crisis within a crisis".

"The ceasefire since October 2002 has been respected, but there have been some outbreaks as there are a high number of militias in the south. There is also the problem of the Ugandan rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army [LRA], which is independent from the war between the north and the south, but plays a role in the suffering of people," Aparicio said in an interview with Alertnet.

He noted that during a recent visit to Eastern Equatoria, which borders Uganda and Kenya, it had been found that the LRA had come down from the Imatong Mountains and attacked the people living at the bottom. The rebels took whatever the people had. "It is mainly women and children gathered in the camps, as the men stayed behind to collect whatever was left after the LRA had finished attacking and looting," he said.

"The humanitarian situation is appalling," he added. "We saw people who had nothing - no access to clean water, no shelter, no proper food. We saw many children who were malnourished. People were cooking some wild food such as plants and herbs, which is obviously not enough for growing children."

The conflict in southern Sudan erupted in 1983 when rebels in the mainly Christian and animist south took up arms against authorities based in the Muslim, largely Arabised north to demand greater autonomy for their region.

Theme (s): Governance,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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