Fighting in Sudan could surge if north-south peace accord unravels – UN official

Special Representative Ashraf Jehangir Qazi

5 February 2009 – Conflicts and instability in Sudan are likely to escalate dramatically if the peace accord that ended the north-south civil war unravels under the pressure of insufficient mutual trust, fighting in the western Darfur region, and the possible war crimes indictment of the President, a senior United Nations official warned today.

“The humanitarian implications of a relapse into conflict and chaos throughout Sudan are, to put it mildly, sobering,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Sudan Ashraf Jehangir Qazi told the Security Council in a briefing on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that in 2005 ended the two-decades-long conflict between the north and south, in which at least 2 million people were killed and some 4.5 million more driven from their homes.

Presenting Mr. Ban’s latest report to the 15-member body, Mr. Qazi stressed that making unity attractive to the people of Southern Sudan, where a referendum on possible secession is due in 2011, should remain the focus of the parties and the international community over the next two years.

“Without any exaggeration, 2009 could be a make or break year for the CPA and for the prospect of peace in Sudan,” he said, reiterating the report’s call for “a tangible peace dividend,” including the provision of basic public services, particularly for the people in the south and in the border areas, to convince them of the benefits of remaining in a united country.

He also repeated the need for border demarcation between the northern and southern regions and a focus on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.

In his report Mr. Ban expressed concern over Sudanese reaction to a possible arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Omar al-Bashir for allegedly committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.

“While I am encouraged by the assurances of continued support by the Government, I am also concerned about remarks by some of its officials that the Government may redefine its relationship with UNMIS (the UN Mission in Sudan that is mainly concerned with helping to enforce the CPA) should an arrest warrant be issued against President al-Bashir,” he wrote.

Mr. Qazi said the impact of an ICC decision on the CPA and the Darfur situation would need to be discussed. “We have received assurances of protection and cooperation from Sudanese authorities at the highest levels,” he stressed. “But these assurances have been qualified by warnings about public outrage. There have also been public threats and incitement to violence.

“The UN has made the necessary contingency plans and kept the Sudanese authorities informed. Political and security circumstances permitting, the UN is committed to continue its work in accordance with the mandate entrusted to it by the Security Council,” he added.

In a related development, the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) announced today that it will help 38,000 of the poorest and most vulnerable households overcome food insecurity and extreme poverty in six counties in Southern Sudan’s Central Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei states, with a $13.5 million grant to support the Southern Sudan Livelihoods Development Project.

The project, targeting households headed by women and returnees, will be IFAD's first operation in Southern Sudan since the CPA was signed. It will tackle rural poverty, population displacement, poor public services and low agricultural productivity, by supporting community-based development of productive on-farm and off-farm activities. This includes technical and financial support for agricultural micro-projects, rural infrastructure and marketing facilities.

An additional grant of $9 million will be provided by the Netherlands, and $3.4 million by the Government of Southern Sudan and the beneficiaries.

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