Darfur security, humanitarian situations ‘deteriorated significantly’ – UN peacekeeping chief

A UNAMID peacekeeper interacts with a woman during a daily patrol aimed at protecting newly-displaced persons at the Zam Zam camp near El Fasher, North Darfur. Photo: UNAMID/Hamid Abdulsalam

17 March 2015 – The security and humanitarian situations in the Darfur region of Sudan “deteriorated significantly” over the past year, the head of United Nations peacekeeping told the Security Council today, adding that there had also been no tangible progress toward resolving the conflict.

Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, presented two reports to the Council, including one specifically dedicated to implementation by the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) of new strategic priorities, which highlights progress made and difficulties encountered during the exercise.

“The current upsurge in Darfur, at least for now, is largely attributable to the ongoing Government of Sudan and the RSF [Rapid Support Forces – a counter-insurgency militia] military offensive,” he said, adding that it was not “directly linked with the forthcoming Sudanese general elections.”

He warned that events on the ground could change as election campaigns intensified, particularly in light of recent calls by Sheikh Musa Hilal, a prominent tribal leader in North Darfur, for an election boycott and disruption of the electoral process across Darfur. Also, if the threat did actualise, existing inter-tribal tensions may heighten as strict security measures and additional Government security forces were deployed, he added.

Describing the Government’s ‘Decisive Summer’ military offensive against non-signatory armed groups, he said the national army had significantly weakened and isolated the armed groups geographically, also causing “significant loss of lives and large-scale displacement.”

Around 450,000 people in total were displaced over 2014, as a result of violence, which Mr. Ladsous said was a higher volume in any single year since the peak of the conflict in 2004. At least 300,000 of those remain displaced, mostly in camps for internally displaced persons, with the total number of displaced persons in Darfur now totalling 2.5 million.

“This negative trend has continued most recently with the continuation of fighting between the Government and the armed groups,” he said, pointing to “at least 43,000 new displacements since the beginning of the year.”

At the same time as the situation on the ground was worsening, Mr. Ladsous said prospects for holding the National Dialogue between the Government and the opposition before the election were limited, with talks on Darfur breaking down and the Government implementing measures curtailing political freedom.

However, in February, the Berlin Declaration was signed, which called for the convening of an inclusive preparatory meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa to revive the talks.

“The Berlin Declaration seems to demonstrate a certain consensus among the opposition to reengage in the National Dialogue,” he said.

Throughout 2014, the Joint Special Representative for Darfur urged rebels to participate in the peace process based on the Doha agreement and without preconditions. Direct negotiations took place in November but were suspended because the parties were too far apart, while UNAMID continued to provide sites and camps for displaced people and continued to support efforts to address the root causes of the conflict by engaging traditional chiefs, civil society and others.

Turning to the mission, Mr. Ladsous described the efforts taken to address the three main challenges to its mandate implementation, which were identified in last year’s strategic review, including improved cooperation with the Government in some areas, implementation of measures to improve the mission’s troops’ operational capabilities and effectiveness on the ground, and improvements to coordination and management structures.

“Nevertheless, some of the major challenges remain,” he said, listing the need to improve the mission’s reporting of incidents and analysis, its internal and external communications approach, and the recruitment of personnel to key posts.

“Despite strategic and operational-level improvements in coordination with the United Nations Country Team, further progress on establishing an effective Darfur-wide early warning and response system is required.”

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