|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6269th Meeting (AM)
Solution to Challenges Facing Darfur Must Be Met Within National Context,
Assistant Secretary-General Stresses While Briefing Security Council
He Welcomes Resumed High-level Sudan-Chad Dialogue, Release of Mission Staff
The challenges facing Darfur must be met within a national context at this critical time for Sudan, Dmitry Titov, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council today.
“The conflicts in Sudan, which have a primarily internal structure, cannot be solved in a piecemeal fashion or by addressing primarily external factors, Mr. Titov emphasized as he presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). Core issues such as power- and wealth-sharing required a comprehensive and farsighted approach that took into account the interests of all stakeholders, particularly those too long marginalized by the conflict.
He said Sudan had reached a critical juncture as it entered the final year of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, with national elections scheduled in less than two months and the referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan in less than a year. The country’s democratic transformation required the urgent resolution of key issues in Darfur, including representation for all Darfurians in the electoral process, the Doha negotiations and the cessation of military activities.
While some of the trends affecting Darfur had been positive, the overall situation remained very complicated and volatile, he said. The peaceful conduct of voter registration in November and December had been encouraging, with almost 70 per cent of Darfur’s eligible population having registered. However, only relatively small numbers of internally displaced persons had been registered, and a large number loyal to Abdul Wahid, a Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction leader, had boycotted the registration process. Additionally, the National Electoral Commission had been unable to establish registration centres in some camps for displaced persons. After the elections, a major challenge would be ensuring that elected officials would actually represent the interests of those left out of the electoral process.
It was extremely important to implement the laws necessary to promote freedom of speech and assembly, he said, pointing out that those basic freedoms were constrained under the 1997 emergency laws, which continued to be applied to the three states of the Darfur region. It would also be important to revise or suspend, before the elections began on 11 April, the national security law giving Government security services powers of detention without cause.
Although UNAMID had provided technical assistance to help the Government prepare the elections, he said, the National Electoral Commission continued to face enormous challenges, including the establishment of hundreds of thousands of polling stations and the transportation of large quantities of electoral materials to remote locations. However, the Commission had only requested limited assistance.
He said the mediation continued to work towards an inclusive negotiated settlement to the Darfur crisis through its three-track approach. Joint Chief Mediator Djibril Yipènè Bassolé had worked with the belligerent parties to facilitate direct negotiation of a peace agreement, and consultations had included Darfurian civil society. Thus far, formal talks between the parties had not been possible, although informal discussions involving representatives of the Government, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the two coalitions known as the Addis Group and the Tripoli Group were continuing in Doha, Qatar.
Mr. Bassolé’s key message to the parties was that they must engage more constructively and with greater flexibility, and that negotiations would continue after the elections if no agreement was reached by April, he said. More focus must be given to the involvement of civil society in the process. Ultimately, the success of the peace process would depend on the extent to which it addressed political and economic marginalization in Darfur, he said.
He said the appointment of Ibrahim Gambari as the new Joint Special Representative was intended to give impetus to a sustained dialogue involving civil society. Other positive political developments included the establishment of the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel led by former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, and the United Nations Secretariat’s efforts to coordinate the Panel’s work with the Joint Special Representative, the Chief Mediator and the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
The resumption of high-level dialogue between Sudan and Chad, including the 15 January signing of the Accord of Normalization of Relations, was another hopeful development, he said, noting that some observers had described as “historic” the meeting between President Omer al-Bashir and President Idris Déby in Khartoum on 8 February. Their agreement reportedly envisaged the establishment of a joint force to improve conditions on the two countries’ common border.
Noting that the security situation in Darfur continued to be marked by sporadic fighting among rebel forces as well as between Government forces and rebel movements, the Assistant Secretary-General said the Secretariat was deeply concerned, in particular, over the killing of five UNAMID peacekeepers during the reporting period. The mission would continue to maximize the safety of its personnel, while also establishing a robust, proactive presence throughout Darfur, he pledged.
Citing restrictions on UNAMID imposed by the Government and rebels, he said it was crucial that all stakeholders respect freedom of movement for mission personnel. He welcomed the release of UNAMID staff members held captive for 107 days, as described in the Secretary-General’s report. As UNAMID neared full deployment, it could now focus robustly on its core tasks of protecting the population. The mission continued to provide a full-time presence in most displaced persons camps, with community policing activities helping significantly to reduce violent crime in many locations.
While the challenges in Darfur remained enormous, there was hope and opportunity that the coming year would bring positive changes for the region, Mr. Titov said in conclusion. At the present critical time, the Secretary-General believed that the international community would speak with one voice, urging all stakeholders to work towards a democratic transformation of Sudan, including a peaceful political resolution in Darfur.
The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.
The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), covering the period from 1 November 2009 to 31 January 2010 (document S/2010/50), which includes an assessment of the mission’s progress against the benchmarks contained in the Secretary-General’s report of 16 November.
According to the report, full deployment at of the mission’s mandated strength of 19,555 personnel was expected by the end of February, but the self-sustainment capability of its units remains a challenge. At the seventh meeting of the Tripartite Coordination Mechanism, held on 16 November 2009 in Khartoum, participants agreed that, as UNAMID approached full deployment, its focus, and that of the tripartite meetings, would shift from deployment to effective employment of troops and police, with particular regard to the mission’s freedom of movement, enhancing security for United Nations personnel and reducing criminality.
The report states that the Darfur mediation continued its intensive interaction with the parties and with regional and international stakeholders, but progress towards direct negotiations to improve the security situation has been frustrated by the continued fragmentation of armed movements, ongoing military activities and lack of confidence between the parties. The mediation’s three-track approach entails working with the belligerent parties; expanding consultations with Darfurian civil society; and facilitating relations between Chad and Sudan. The mediation also continued to engage with the Government of Sudan to encourage implementation of concrete measures to improve the security situation in Darfur and create a climate of trust.
On the upcoming elections, the report says voter registration was undertaken without major security incidents, but despite high turnout, did not proceed without difficulties in the three Darfur states due to emergency laws restricting freedom of expression, association and assembly. Additional constraints included inadequate civic education, an insufficient number of registration centres and failure to register domestic observer groups. Khalil Ibrahim, Chairman of JEM, and SLA faction leader Abdul Wahid called on 9 November 2009 for a boycott of the elections as no comprehensive peace for Darfur had been achieved. As a result, registration did not take place in areas controlled by the two movements.
The security situation in certain areas of Darfur was marked by intermittent military operations involving the Sudanese Armed Forces and armed movements, the report notes, adding that the violence, in addition to increasing intercommunal violence and banditry, put civilians at risk and resulted in displacement. The security situation in the border areas between Chad and Sudan also remained volatile, with some cross-border incidents reported, despite improving diplomatic relations between the countries. Ongoing restrictions on UNAMID’s access, particularly in the aftermath of reported fighting, are of serious concern in that context.
According to the report, the security situation also continues to present significant risks to United Nations and humanitarian staff, with mission personnel being deliberately attacked. Five UNAMID peacekeepers were killed during incidents on 4 and 5 December. On the other hand, two international staff members held in captivity for 107 days were released on 13 December. UNAMID has continued to contribute to the establishment of a secure and more stable environment, while expanding its community policing initiative in camps and communities of internally displaced persons. It also continued to raise awareness about the risks posed by mines and unexploded ordnance.
Turning to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, the report states that the Government organized a discharge exercise for more than 300 of them in North Darfur. The SLA-Peace Wing discharged 220 fighters and turned over 117 weapons as well as seven vehicles to the Darfur Security Arrangement Implementation Commission in South Darfur. A total of 243 children associated with the SLA Free Will and Mother factions were demobilized, bringing the total number of children released to 383 out of the 2,000 registered.
The mission’s work with respect to the rule of law, governance and human rights continues to focus on helping the Government enhance its capacity to provide credible, effective protection to civilians in Darfur, the report says. Conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence remains a serious but underreported concern, with only 18 alleged cases documented during the reporting period. The Government’s Advisory Council for Human Rights held several meetings with UNAMID regarding human rights concerns in Darfur, and the Wali (Governor) of West Darfur established the State Human Rights Forum.
The Secretary-General observes that two years into its mandate, UNAMID has made significant progress towards full deployment and is now focused on the critical tasks of protecting civilians and facilitating humanitarian delivery. Serious challenges include ongoing military confrontation between the Government and other armed elements, attacks on UNAMID and humanitarian convoys, and armed attempts to prevent the mission from patrolling.
However, the most serious impediment to peace is the failure of some parties to engage meaningfully in the peace process, the report states. As the political process gains momentum, and in order to build on the significant work of Joint Chief Mediator Djibril Bassolé to increase engagement among the parties, the Secretary-General urges them all to cease armed confrontation and engage meaningfully in substantive, inclusive discussions. The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel led by former President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa can play a crucial role in encouraging the Government and the rebel movements to engage in the negotiations led by the Joint Chief Mediator.
The Secretary-General emphasizes that it is critical that the national elections set for April 2010 provide an opportunity for all Darfurians, particularly internally displaced persons, to participate fully and completely unhindered. He strongly urges the Government to address remaining technical and political challenges. The conclusion of a peace agreement before the elections would provide the necessary confidence for all Darfurians to participate, he says, calling on the Government also to ensure that all Sudanese enjoy the freedom of movement, assembly and expression necessary to enable them to participate in the electoral process.
Welcoming the resumption of the high-level dialogue between the Governments of Sudan and Chad, as well as their singing of the Accord on Normalization of Relations, the Secretary-General underlines the importance of translating the normalization of diplomatic relations into increased security on the ground, particularly along the common border between the two countries.
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