|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6474th Meeting (AM)
Early Balloting in Sudan Points to Broad Support for South Sudan’s Secession,
Renewed Violence in Darfur Deeply Worrying, Security Council Told
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Atul Khare,
Special Representative for Darfur Ibrahim Gambari, Brief on Developments
While early indications of a week’s worth of balloting pointed to an overwhelming vote in favour of Southern Sudan’s secession, senior United Nations officials expressed deep concern in the Security Council today over renewed violence in North and South Darfur, and issued a stern warning that violence remained an “ever present threat” in the disputed, oil-rich border area of Abyei, absent a permanent settlement of its status.
In separate briefings to the Council, Atul Khare, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Ibrahim Gambari, Joint African Union-United Nations Special Representative for Darfur, updated members on the latest developments in Darfur and the wider situation in Sudan.
Mr. Khare, discussing the referendum in Southern Sudan, said all ballots had been cast and counted, and were currently being verified and approved. Preliminary results would be announced on 2 February. Barring any legal appeals, final results would be declared on 7 February, and in the case of appeals, on 14 February.
The referendum in Abyei had not taken place, he said, and was pending the outcome of talks on the area’s status between Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) parties. Agreements reached by community leaders on 13 January and between the Ministers of Interior from the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan on 17 January, relating to migration and security in the area, had largely held and were being gradually implemented. The agreed deployment of two additional battalions of Joint Integrated Units to the area was to be completed by 27 January.
Tensions between the Misseriya and the Dinka-Ngok communities remained high, he cautioned, and the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) continued to deter a return to violence. He was encouraged, however, that Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and First Vice-President Salva Kiir were scheduled to meet tomorrow to resume talks on Abyei.
“The many challenges to stability in the North and South require a commitment by the authorities to inclusive political participation,” he said, commending the Government of South Sudan for reaching out to other political parties and forces, including those that had rebelled against the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). But he expressed concern at reports from Khartoum of the arrest of opposition leaders and other activists, saying the Sudanese Government should be encouraged to continue on the path of democratic transformation in the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Elsewhere, he said the ongoing popular consultation processes in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States were making slow and steady progress, with public hearings in the Blue Nile State, begun on 14 January, continuing in a “relatively positive” atmosphere. A new timetable for elections in the Southern Kordofan State had been announced, with registration set to begin on 24 January.
Turning to Darfur, he noted progress in ongoing peace negotiations in Doha, Qatar, saying that, in November 2010, joint negotiating committees from the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) and the Government had concluded their work in the broad areas of power-sharing, justice and reconciliation, compensation, the return and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons, and security arrangements.
“This work has demonstrated that the parties have significant areas of common ground,” he said, noting, however, that disagreement remained on the powers of a regional authority to implement the peace agreement in Darfur and a vice-presidency post for Darfur. The 16 December 2010 decision by the JEM to return to Doha and resume ceasefire talks with the Government was also positive. While Abdul Wahid had not yet joined the talks, he indicated he might soon send a delegation.
Moreover, the African Union-United Nations Consultative Forum had agreed to begin planning for a Darfur Political Process, he said, which would be based on the outcomes of the Doha process and work to build support within Darfurian communities for the key principles arising from the Doha negotiations. It would be led by UNAMID and the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel on Sudan (AUHIP). Its credibility would hinge on steps taken by the Government to create an enabling environment, which must include the protection of civil and political rights, freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of movement and proportional and equitable participation among Darfuri interests.
With that in mind, a joint UNAMID-Sudanese Government technical task force would be created to monitor conditions for an enabling environment, he said. Various stakeholders in the Darfur peace process had expressed differing views on the timing and content of the process, as well as about its possible relationship to the Doha talks, and the Secretary-General was reviewing those issues with a view to establishing a common United Nations-African Union position.
Mr. Gambari, speaking via video teleconference from El Fasher, capital of North Darfur, said the violence which erupted in December in North and South Darfur had stemmed from deteriorated relations between the Government and the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) — Minni Minawi. Since then, UNAMID and the humanitarian community had worked vigorously to address the serious humanitarian situation and protection consequences of the clashes, which included the displacement of an estimated 43,000 people — 15,000 of whom had gathered around UNAMID team sites in Shangil Tobaya, Khor Abeche and Shaeria.
Continued violence between the two parties re-erupted two days ago in Thabit, located between El Fasher and Shangil Tobaya, he said, noting that UNAMID also had received reports of raids on 24 January by the Sudanese Armed Forces on the village of Abu Zerega. Fighting continued on 25 January and reports indicated that elements of the SLA-Abdul Wahid and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) had joined with SLA-Minni Minnawi in those clashes. As the Government had blocked the main road between El Fasher and Shangil Tobaya, UNAMID and the humanitarian community had no access to the area.
On other matters, he said that, while he was pleased to report that the UNAMID staff member held hostage for 91 days had been released unharmed on 5 January, he was saddened that on 13 January, three Bulgarian air crew members working for a contractor of United Nations Humanitarian Air Services had been taken hostage upon landing in Um Shalaya, West Darfur. The decision to suspend flights to unsecured landing sites in West Darfur would likely negatively impact access to deep field locations.
Generally, access was a challenge in Darfur, and he had issued instructions that UNAMID would adopt a “more robust posture”, no longer creating the perception of seeking permission for movement within its area of responsibility. Since then, UNAMID supply and logistics convoys to all team sites had faced no impediments. On some occasions, they had been able to push their way through, thanks to persistent negotiations by patrol commanders. On others, as recently as 22 January, the Government had denied access to a UNAMID verification patrol to Dar El Salam.
Turning to Jebel Marra, a mountainous region midpoint between the three Darfur states, he said significant portions of that area had been cut off from humanitarian and UNAMID access since last February, due in part to fighting between Sudanese Armed Forces and the SLA-Abdul Wahid. While nearly all attempts to gain humanitarian access had been denied, UNAMID had conducted two patrols on 13 November 2010, including to Guldo and Golo on the western side and Tarny, Gosdor and Turty on the eastern side. On 13 January, a long-range patrol from Sector South had reached Deribat through a Government-controlled route, and more such patrols were planned.
Eastern Jebel Marra remained a focus for the delivery of emergency relief supplies, he explained, noting that on 23 December 2010, a child demobilization mission organized by UNAMID and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had visited Golombei, and that on 11 January, a mission involving UNAMID, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) had delivered vaccines and medical supplies to Kaguro.
While UNAMID would continue to patrol Jebel Mara, there was a need to balance those efforts with protection requirements, following fighting in Khor Abeche, Shangil Tobaya and Shaeria, he said. UNAMID’s protection strategy centred on maintaining a robust presence in areas of potential hostilities, providing direct protection, securing humanitarian space, and supplying verified reporting based on engagement with all sides.
“To achieve lasting stabilization in Darfur, we must seize all opportunities to build on positive trends,” he stressed, and allow displaced populations to regain a sense of normality in their lives. While recognizing improved collaboration between central and State authorities, humanitarian workers and UNAMID, he said that for any efforts to be fruitful, the violence must stop. He reiterated the call for an immediate cessation of hostilities.
For the Council’s consideration today of the situation in Sudan, it had before it a report of the Secretary-General (document S/2010/681), in which he says, among other things, that in order to ensure a “soft landing” at the end of the referendum process and the interim period, the parties must agree on key post-referendum issues, including wealth sharing, management of assets and debts, border security arrangements and citizenship, particularly as possible changes in the status of legal, employment and property rights would be a major concern for Southerners in the Northern Sudan and Northerners in the Southern Sudan.
It also had before it the report of the Secretary-General on UNAMID (document S/2011/22), in which, among other things, he expresses deep concern over the upsurge in fighting between the Government and movement forces, particularly the Justice Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minawi (SLA-MM), and its humanitarian consequences. The Secretary-General calls on them to desist from violence on the ground and show the political will necessary to reach an immediate ceasefire and an inclusive Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and adjourned at 10:43 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record