Darfur: UN envoy doubtful parties are willing to enter serious negotiations

Salim Ahmed Salim (L) and Jan Eliasson

24 June 2008 – There is reason to seriously question whether the parties to the Darfur conflict are ready to negotiate and make the compromises necessary for a peace deal to end the brutal five-year conflict in western Sudan, a senior United Nations envoy told the Security Council today.

Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, told a Council briefing that the environment in the region had deteriorated, despite the persistent efforts of the UN and the African Union to bring the Government and the many splintered rebel groups to the peace table.

“We now urgently have to mobilize all available political energy inside and outside Sudan to, first of all, stop [the] escalation and reach a cessation of hostilities and, secondly, to lay a foundation for serious peace talks for Darfur,” he said.

Mr. Eliasson said “a new generation in Sudan may be doomed to a life in conflict, despair and poverty” and become radicalized in camps unless the international community does more to end the crisis.

“But, at the end of the day, we will not make progress unless the Sudanese themselves show seriousness, political will, and a focused commitment to peace. It is for them to accept responsibility and finally accept the outstanding issues.”

He said that some of the rebel movements have been engaged in power struggles and infighting and have been “preoccupied with formulating preconditions for talks and using rhetoric often distant from reality.”

The envoy added that it was important to realize that the movements have a “great and genuine lack of trust in the Government of Sudan,” noting that continued attacks against civilians and resettlement on land owned by IDPs does “not foster an atmosphere of confidence.”

Mr. Eliasson and his AU counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, briefed the Council on the latest developments inside Darfur, as well as on the most recent report of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force to the region (UNAMID).

That report concludes that ongoing violence has hindered the full deployment of UNAMID, which is supposed to have around 26,000 troops, police officers and military observers at full capacity but currently has closer to 10,000 such people in place.

The mission struggles to carry out its mandate by continuing patrols, escorts and the protection of humanitarian convoys, despite limited resources, according to the report.

The situation is exacerbated by the continuing civilian displacement across Darfur, where rebels have been fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen since 2003. In May alone, about 40,000 people had to flee their homes, taking the total so far this year to 190,000. Overall, more than 2.7 million people are living either as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sudan or as refugees in neighbouring eastern Chad.

The report notes that the security situation remains fragile, with numerous instances of armed banditry and attacks on aid convoys, as well as the gathering of forces along the Sudanese-Chadian border for possible future clashes.

It expresses particular concern at the attack by a column of 200 to 300 vehicles with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) on Omdurman, near the Sudanese capital Khartoum, in early May, which led to deadly clashes in the area.

In the report Mr. Ban also reiterates his call for the parties to lay down their weapons and begin negotiations, stressing that peace in Darfur has an impact on both the successful implementation of the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) ending the north-south civil war in Sudan and wider regional stability.


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