Residents of Tabiet village in Sudan's North Darfur State have expressed resentment over claims of mass rape of the village's women.
Residents from the village, some 45 kms north of El Fasher, the capital city of North Darfur State, organized a demonstration in condemnation of what they termed as "lies and deliberate distortion of women's honor."
A number of officials of the Transitional Darfur Regional Authority (TDRA), local officials and tribal leaders from the area took part in the demonstration.
"Tabit area is in complete stability and the Sudanese Armed Forces are present at the area and protecting the citizens," said Abdul-Karum Mussa, TDRA Information Minister when addressing the demonstration.
"The purpose behind the rape claims is to create a state of tension at the area and cause a social crack among the population groups in Tabit," he noted.
On Nov. 4, Radio Dabanga, which is concerned with Darfur issues and pro to the armed groups in Darfur, quoted a tribal leader as saying that over 200 women and a girl from Tabit were raped by government forces, while the Sudanese government completely refuted the rape claims.
One day later, the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) announced that government troops denied the mission access to Tabit to investigate on those claims. Khartoum, in turn, regarded UNAMID's move as an attempt to solidify those claims.
Although the mission, after been allowed access to Tabit to investigate the rape claims, announced that it did not find any evidence on mass rape in the village, Khartoum's anger continued, particularly after the mission asked to conduct a second investigation, which Khartoum rejected.
Al-Hady Abdalla Abdul-Rahman, commissioner of Tawila locality, to which Tabit is administratively affiliated, threatened to sue UNAMID over what he regarded as a defamation of the reputation of the women of the area.
"These are baseless lies targeting the reputation and honor of our women. We will not stand by idly and we will sue all the trends involved, top of them UNAMID," said Abdul-Rahman when addressing the demonstration.
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council issued a statement voicing its concern over the allegations reported in the media of mass rape in late October of 200 women and girls in Thabit, and calling on the government of Sudan to conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations.
Last week, UNAMID announced that its team which visited Thabit did not find any evidence on rape cases, but press reports stated that a secret report for the mission indicated that the heavy presence of military and police in Thabit made a conclusive investigation difficult.
"The village has not witnessed any case of rape. We are surprised at this shameful rumor which targets our honor as women, " Fatima Younis, Chairperson of the women union in Tabit, told Xinhua.
"We, as women, have followed these lies through the media, but they are just allegations that meant to target the social fabric in this village and cripple its development projects," she noted.
Hawa Bakheet, a woman from Tabit, for her part, told Xinhua that "These are shameful allegations. We are citizens in this village and have nothing to do with any armed conflict in Darfur. We do not understand why some wanted to tarnish our image and target our honor. This is unfair and unacceptable."
Meanwhile, the Sudanese government reiterated its rejection to allow a UNAMID team a second visit to Tabit to conduct another investigation on the rape claims at a time when the UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon earlier urged Sudanese government officials to grant unfettered access to the town so that investigators can verify the reports.
To this end, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry last Sunday said it would not allow UNAMID a second visit, and justify its decision by expressing "doubts about the motives behind the insistence of the mission to conduct a second visit to Tabet."
UNAMID, formally established in 2007, has been mandated to protect civilians, support humanitarian assistance, monitor and verify implementation of agreements, contribute to the promotion of human rights and the rule of law, and assist in the political reconciliation following the 2003 civil war between the government of Sudan and militias and other armed rebel groups.