Sudan rejects the proposed force of United Nations peacekeepers for the war-torn region of Darfur as an attempt to re-colonize the country, its President told the General Assembly today, calling on world leaders to focus their efforts on supporting the peace agreement signed earlier this year.
In a speech to the Assembly’s annual debate in New York, Omer al-Bashir said that Khartoum refuses “all forms of dictates” about Darfur – where UN officials, including Secretary-General Kofi Annan, have warned that a man-made humanitarian catastrophe is looming.
He criticized last month’s resolution at the Security Council, when it voted to deploy more than 17,000 blue helmets amid mounting concern over what will happen at the end of this month, when African Union (AU) troops stationed in Darfur are slated to leave.
Mr. al-Bashir described the resolution as the climax of efforts to undermine the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), which was signed in early May by the Government and some of the rebel groups it has been fighting since 2003.
He said the international community should be striving instead to make sure the DPA succeeds and to encourage those rebel groups which have not yet signed the pact to do so.
The Sudanese leader called the work of the current AU mission in Darfur a “pioneering experiment” that shows what regional organizations can achieve in maintaining peace and security, backed its continuing operation, and urged the Council to give it more support.
About 1.9 million people have been displaced and nearly 3 million in total depend on humanitarian aid for food, shelter and basic health care across Darfur because of the ongoing fighting. Scores of thousands of people have also been killed. In the past two months there has also been a surge in the number of murders of aid workers.
Last week Mr. Annan said Darfur is headed for a disaster unless Khartoum changes its mind about allowing UN peacekeepers to intervene, and Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland are among many UN officials to also express alarm over the situation.
Turning to southern Sudan, Mr. al-Bashir hailed the progress made since a Government of National Unity was formed in the wake of the 2004 peace deal that ended the decades-long conflict there.
Mr. al-Bashir also said the need for reform of the Security Council is “more imperative than ever before,” citing the way the 15-member body “watched helplessly” as the recent conflict took place between Israel and Hizbollah in Lebanon.