File picture: Issouf Sanogo

Khartoum - Sudanese authorities have denied international peacekeepers access to part of the troubled Darfur region where villages have been reported burned and civilians uprooted, the mission said on Monday.

The restriction is the latest of many cited by the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), despite an agreement with the government which says peacekeepers have freedom of movement.

UNAMID said in a statement that it is deeply concerned about a reported escalation of violence in South Darfur over the past few days.

“The violence has resulted in the reported burning of a number villages and the displacement of a large number of civilians in the vicinity of Um Gunya”, about 50km south-east of the state capital Nyala.

Looting and civilian casualties have also been reported, UNAMID added.

“Peacekeepers have attempted to access the affected areas on several occasions, but have been denied passage by the authorities,” the mission said.

UNAMID is tasked with protecting civilians and ensuring safe and unhindered humanitarian access to them.

An 11-year-old rebellion by ethnic insurgents continues in Darfur but last year also saw a steep escalation of tribal conflicts and a rise in criminality, UNAMID has said.

Most of the “tribal” conflicts pitted well-armed Arab militias against each other.

Analysts say Sudan's cash-starved government can no longer control its former Arab tribal allies, whom it armed against the rebellion, and violent competition for resources has intensified. - AFP