|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5872nd Meeting* (AM)
SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD STILL NO LASTING SOLUTION TO SUFFERING IN DARFUR, DIFFICULT
FOR UNAMID TO IMPLEMENT MANDATE, PROTECT CIVILIANS IF THERE IS NO PEACE TO KEEP
Special Envoys Warn Prospects for Talks between Parties ‘Dim’; Humanitarian Chief
Urges Sudanese Government to Do Much More to Protect World Food Programme Convoys
“It is disturbing that, even though Darfur is at the top of the international agenda, this attention has not thus far been matched with action to provide UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) with the wherewithal to accomplish the tasks assigned to it,” Rodolphe Adada, the African Union-United Nations Joint Special Representative for Darfur told the Security Council today.
Updating the Council on the humanitarian situation in Darfur, John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said “I am saddened and angry that, after five years of suffering, and four years since this Council became actively engaged, we have still not been able to find a lasting solution to the suffering of [the] millions of men, women and children.”
In a statement later read out on behalf of Special Envoys Jan Eliasson of the United Nations and the African Union’s Salim Salim, Mr. Adada warned that it would be difficult for UNAMID to implement its mandate and protect the civilians of Darfur if there was no peace to keep. Prospects for comprehensive substantive talks between the parties in the near future were dim.
Briefing the Council on UNAMID’s deployment, Mr. Adada said that the Mission had deployed in accordance with Council resolution 1769 (2007). The central expectation placed upon the Mission by the people of Darfur and the international community was to provide protection for the civilians there. “As I speak to you today, I must report frankly that there is a long way to go before we can say that we have met these expectations and fulfilled the promise made by this Council,” he said, adding, “our forces are serving under exceptionally difficult conditions, facing daily dangers and hardships”.
He said that, despite all the efforts, three months into UNAMID’s operations, the force strength had not increased much beyond the strength of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) at the end of December 2007, and was at less than 40 per cent of the mandated level of 19,555. It would probably not achieve full operating capability before 2009. The Mission was finalizing a list of emergency measures needed to get deployment back on track. A number of deployments were scheduled over the next three months, including the main body of the Chinese engineering company, the Egyptian infantry battalion, and other units from Bangladesh, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
Since the transfer of authority, UNAMID still lacked five critical operational capabilities: attack helicopters; surveillance aircraft; medium lift support helicopters; military engineers and logistical support, he said. An offer to meet part of the attack and medium lift helicopter requirement had been made by Ethiopia. UNAMID police and civilian components were gradually increasing their impact on the ground. More protection was being provided to vulnerable groups during firewood collection, enhancing security around the camps for internally displaced persons, and providing better protection, especially to the women in the camps. The introduction of community policing concepts had culminated in the registration and training of 287 internationally displaced volunteers, 30 of whom were women.
He went on to say that there was intensified violence and deeper polarization in the conflict. Recent Government attacks on villages in the northern corridor of west Darfur had left at least 100 civilians dead and had caused tens of thousands to flee. The Sudanese attacks were in response to an earlier attack by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Those acts constituted grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and should be strongly condemned.
Despite all efforts, however, the peace process in Darfur remained very slim, he continued. “Unfortunately, it is commonly understood today in Darfur that peace is not at all attractive. Neither economically, nor politically,” he said. The conflicts in Darfur and Chad were now closely intertwined and it would be extremely challenging to secure a solution to one of the conflicts while the other continued to rage. The recently established Darfur Peace and Stability Fund, however, was proving to be an important contribution.
In conclusion, he warned that, as the challenges facing UNAMID in Darfur were formidable and there were high expectations about what the Mission should deliver, the warm welcome UNAMID had received could very rapidly degenerate into deepening frustrations among the people of Darfur.
Reading the statement by the United Nations and African Union Special Envoys, respectively, Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Salim, with an update on the political situation, Mr. Adada said that, with prospects for comprehensive substantive talks between the parties in the near future dim, the Envoys’ emphasis now was on reducing the level of violence and preparing a cessation of hostilities.
He said that, despite the dire security situation, the Special Envoys had re-emphasized the primacy of a political solution and refocused on establishing a dialogue between the parties on security-related matters. On 17 and 18 March in Geneva, agreement had been reached that improving the security situation in Darfur, as well as normalizing relations between Sudan and Chad, were essential to making progress on the political track. The Joint Mediation Support Team had continued consultations to determine the conditions under which the parties could engage in a dialogue on security issues, including the framework for a cessation of hostilities.
The Government of the Sudan had set up a technical team to work with the Mediation, according to the statement. Improving the security situation was the first priority, and concrete steps were being taken to move forward, as soon as possible, on establishing a dialogue between the parties under African Union-United Nations auspices. The Joint Mediation Support Team was also continuing its work to find common ground among the Sudanese civil society, political parties, traditional leaders and the internally displaced on the various issues related to peace in Darfur, including the census and elections.
Mr. Holmes, in his briefing to the Council, said the humanitarian situation in Darfur for four years had been characterized by growing numbers of displaced, continuing hostilities and violence against civilians, increasing humanitarian needs, and limited access to beneficiaries. Of Darfur’s estimated six million people, some 4.27 million had now been seriously affected by the conflict; 2.45 million people were internally displaced; and 260,000 had sought refuge in neighbouring countries. In 2008, another 100,000 civilians had been forced to flee.
He said Darfur today was still characterized by insecurity, lawlessness and impunity. Widespread human rights abuses continued to be reported in many areas. A particularly worrying feature was the high levels of sexual violence and exploitation in the northern corridor of west Darfur over the past two months. In his trips to Darfur, he had met women who had the courage to tell him some of their stories, while the authorities had continued to deny that any such thing could exist in their country.
The humanitarian community itself was also subjected to constant violence, he said. Since the start of the year, 106 vehicles had been hijacked, one driver had been killed and 26 drivers were still missing. Forty-two humanitarian premises had been assaulted, and six aid workers had been killed. Rebel groups appeared to be primarily responsible for the attacks, which came at a time when several key humanitarian indicators were worsening. Malnutrition, for instance, was now in excess of emergency threshold levels in many areas of Darfur.
The cumulative effects of continued violence, stress and upheaval in Darfur should be recognized, he said. Those in the camps felt helpless. The fear of never being able to return to their areas of origin, and the pressure by the Government to return when conditions were not right, led to polarization, politicization and even militarization. The long-running conflict and the continuing degradation of traditional social structures had serious consequences for the long-term stability of Darfur itself. Normality could not simply be suspended for five years or more and then resume as if nothing had happened.
Noting last week’s announcement by the World Food Programme (WFP) that it would be forced to reduce their food distributions next month because of regular attacks on their convoys, he said that that heartbreaking decision could not come at a worse time, as during the coming period, malaria, water borne diseases, respiratory infections and other illnesses normally caused increased deaths in Darfur. It was vital, therefore, that the Government of the Sudan do much more to protect those convoys and that the armed groups stop such attacks, as well as halt all attempts to extract so-called “taxes” at checkpoints along the roads.
He said that the Moratorium on Restrictions and the “Joint communiqué on the facilitation of humanitarian assistance in Darfur”, which had been extended in January, had helped to alleviate bureaucratic obstacles. However, those agreements did not ensure physical access to internally displaced persons and other vulnerable groups. Humanitarian workers were too often blocked by military intelligence, national security elements or civilian police.
Urging the Government of the Sudan to improve security for civilians and the international community in areas under its control, he said it should disband once and for all the Janjaweed militias and put an end to impunity. As an increasingly prosperous country, the Sudan should provide more assistance to its population, rather than continuing to allow the international community to shoulder virtually all the financial responsibility. The rebel movement should stop endangering the lives of civilians by attacks that were bound to provoke a response in civilian areas. It should also stop attacking humanitarian vehicle convoys and premises and ensure safe humanitarian access. It should also ensure the civilian character of the camps and villages.
He said that only an end to all violence and concrete steps towards a political settlement would make the necessary fundamental difference, as the rebel movements themselves, above all, needed to recognize. “Otherwise the reality is that the people of Darfur face a continued steady deterioration of their conditions of life and their chances of lasting recovery.”
For its consideration of the situation, the Council had before it two reports of the Secretary-General on UNAMID’s deployment (documents S/2008/196 and 249).
The meeting started at 10:35 a.m. and was adjourned at 11:10 a.m.
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For information media • not an official record