UN official urges halt to Sudan projects pending rights study

A United Nations human rights expert has called on Sudan to halt construction of the 1,250-MW Merowe and 108-MW Kajbar dam projects until U.N. human rights monitors can investigate reports of evictions of area residents.

Miloon Kothari, U.N. Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, issued a statement August 27 that he had received reports of imminent large-scale forced evictions as well as violations of civil and political rights.

Merowe is scheduled to begin generating power in 2008 on the Nile River, eventually increasing Sudan’s electricity supply by 150 percent. (HNN 8/16/07) Construction of the smaller Kajbar is beginning nearby on the Nile in northern Sudan.

Saying it was a national necessity, Sudan has moved tens of thousands of people — in some cases by force — from villages in the vicinity of Merowe, 350 kilometers north of Khartoum.

“In our aspiration to solve Sudan’s problems, we realized that one of the biggest problems we faced was power,” Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir recently said after touring the site.

Kothari, an independent expert who reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council, stressed that Sudan must comply with international principles and guidelines on handling displacements from development projects. He also urged countries, contractors, and funding interests to ensure that implementation of the projects does not lead to human rights violations.

Involved in the US$2 billion Merowe project are Chinese, French, and German companies, with the bulk of the funds coming from Arab countries such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman.

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