|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5892nd Meeting (AM)
DARFUR MISSION DEPLOYMENT SLOWED BY DETERIORATING SECURITY, HARSH CONDITIONS;
MUST BE CONSIDERABLY STRENGTHENED TO CARRY OUT MANDATE, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Peacekeeping Head Describes Plan to Maximize Deployment by End of 2008;
Says Lack of Political Progress Major Obstacle, Peace Prospects ‘Seem More Remote’
Deteriorating security, harsh conditions and other obstacles in Darfur had considerably slowed the deployment of the joint United Nations-African Union Mission in the Sudanese region, known as UNAMID, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council today.
“UNAMID is increasing its activities with each passing month, but still needs to be strengthened considerably before it will be able to implement its mandate,” Mr. Guéhenno said during his regular periodic briefing on the situation to the 15-member body.
To that end, he said, Assistant Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute and a supporting technical team had visited the region to develop, with UNAMID leadership, an enhanced plan aimed at maximizing deployment of military and police personnel by the end of 2008. If that plan was fully implemented, UNAMID could be at 80 per cent of its authorized strength by the end of the year.
He said that meant that 15,300 out of 19,555 troops, 3,018 out of 3,772 individual police officers and 12 out of 19 formed police units would be deployed by the end of 2008. To reach those targets, a wide range of units would have to be deployed before the rainy season in a specific order, starting with key enabling units, such as engineer, transportation, logistic and medical groups.
He said one of the central requirements for the success of the enhanced deployment plan was a significant strengthening of the Mission’s engineering capacity, and the Department was pursuing multiple avenues to that end. Further, there must also be a significant improvement in the movement of goods from Port Sudan to Darfur. Customs clearance was taking one month -- which was too long. Insecurity and banditry were causing local contractors to refuse to transport assets. The road movement of equipment was taking an average of seven weeks, also too long to meet the deployment targets.
Government assistance in providing security along the mission pipeline was crucial, he said. Further, assistance from troop contributors was also needed, with an increase in the size of battalions that were already in place, an addition to the engineering capabilities of some of those units and a transfer of assets between units, among other actions.
In addition, almost nine months after the adoption of resolution 1769 (2007), critical air assets were still missing, including three medium utility helicopter units, one aerial reconnaissance unit, one medium transport unit, one heavy transport unit and one multi-role logistics unit, as well as four light helicopters in addition to those being offered by Ethiopia.
A major obstacle to the success of the mission remained the lack of progress on the political front. “The situation in Darfur has grown infinitely more complex and the prospects for peace seem more remote,” he said. The parties were still not demonstrating the political will to abandon the military option, engage in negotiations or fully cooperate with UNAMID and the humanitarian community. The situation called for a redoubling of efforts to bring the parties to the negotiating table and, in the meantime, deployment of a peacekeeping operation capable of making a positive contribution.
It was also essential to end the fighting, which had intensified in recent days, he said. Over the weekend, fighting had broken out in Omdurman, one of the three principal urban areas of Khartoum. On Friday, 9 May, the Government of Sudan had warned the diplomatic community in Khartoum that some 200 to 300 vehicles of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were advancing from North Darfur towards Omdurman, where fighting had continued through the nightfall of 10 May. According to a Government source, some 20 to 30 JEM vehicles had been destroyed and some 200 JEM personnel arrested. The overall number of casualties remained unclear.
Regional stability was also endangered by the clashes, he said. The Government of Sudan had accused Chad of supporting the attack, which the Government of Chad denied. It was a cause of concern that the movement of significant numbers of JEM fighters all the way to Khartoum had gone undetected and had taken both UNAMID and the Government by surprise, which underscored the serious shortfalls in the Mission’s resources, especially aerial reconnaissance capabilities. UNAMID Sector West had received unconfirmed reports of forces gathering near Khor Abeche to attack El Fasher. There had also been reports that JEM and Chadian armed elements were crossing the border and assembling in West Darfur.
The recent escalation also threatened UNAMID operations and efforts to revitalize the Darfur political negotiations, he said, as it came during an “alarming increase of violence in Darfur itself”, including clashes between rebel movements and the Sudanese Armed Forces, as well as between factions of the movements.
The ongoing violence also had had a direct impact on humanitarian operations, he said. 38 trucks hired by the World Food Programme (WFP) to transport supplies into Darfur had been hijacked during the review period, which had forced the agency to halve rations in May. More than 150,000 civilians had been forced to flee their homes, at a rate of more than 1,200 per day. Increased tribal fighting in South Darfur had forced more than 50,000 people to flee in the month of April alone.
“With rations reduced by half, only minimal amounts of food and other relief materials pre-positioned in advance of the rainy season and access decreasing, it is now more important than ever that the parties show full respect for international humanitarian law and ensure full access to populations requiring humanitarian assistance,” he said.
As per its prior agreement, the Council went into closed consultations on the situation following the briefing. The report before the Council is contained in document S/2008/304.
The meeting, which began at 10:12 a.m., adjourned at 10:40 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record