UN pursues peace in Darfur


Although UNMIS’ main focus in 2006 was on the fulfillment of its mandate to help implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 2005, the deteriorating crisis in Sudan’s western Darfur region and international efforts to resolve it increasingly involved the mission as the year progressed.

Initially, this consisted of providing assistance to promote a political settlement to the conflict by providing good offices, substantive expertise and logistical support to the African Union (AU) mediation and the participants attending the talks in Abuja, Nigeria.

Those talks culminated in the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) in Abuja on 5 May 2006 after months of negotiations. The DPA provided a moment of hope that three years of suffering in Darfur might be about to come to an end, although it had been signed by the Government of Sudan and only one of the Darfur rebel groups – the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) faction led by Minni Minawi.

It quickly became clear, however, that serious problems existed among Darfur’s other rebel groups, who were given a grace period until 31 May to sign the DPA, but failed to do so, and with the Government of Sudan’s vision of the agreement’s implementation.

SRSG Jan Pronk addresses a crowd of SLA-G19 (non-signatories of the Darfur Peace Agreement) leaders, fighters and civilians in Birmaza, North Darfur, 18 October 2006. (UNMIS Photo by Frederic Noy)

On the ground, the lack of information about the provisions of the agreement among the general population of Darfur was quickly exploited by those tribal and rebel leaders who opposed it, and the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) started to split into pro and anti- DPA factions. Communities loyal to Abdul Wahid, a rebel leader who had not signed the DPA, were encouraged to demonstrate against the agreement, claiming that it did not represent their interests.The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), another of the rebel movements, declared its early opposition.

By the start of 2006, the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), deployed originally to monitor compliance of the parties with the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement of 8 April 2004, was clearly struggling to fulfill an enhanced mandate given to it on 20 October 2004 to contribute to a secure environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the return of refugees and IDPs. Despite often valiant efforts, AMIS lacked adequate funding and resources. To the UN and others in the international community, it was clear that a multidimensional UN peacekeeping operation was required.

The signing of the DPA added impetus to the detailed planning for a transition to a UN mission already underway at UNMIS headquarters in Khartoum and at UN headquarters in New York.

In Khartoum, however, President Omar al-Bashir and his Government quickly rejected the idea of a UN peacekeeping operation taking over from AMIS,which the Security Council called for in resolution 1663 of 24 March 2006. The AU PSC had also indicated its approval of a transition to UN peacekeeping.

The Government of Sudan, citing threats to its sovereignty by the West, mobilized public sentiment against a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur, in Sudan and across the Muslim world. A series of high-level meetings and missions took place throughout the year to convince President al-Bashir that the UN intended only to protect civilians and help bring peace and stability to Sudan.

Nomadic tribesman on their way to western Bahr Al Ghazal dig for water in a dried waddi, 6 November 2006. (UNMIS Photo by Frederic Noy)

After intense diplomatic pressure, including from Security Council members during a visit to the region in June, and a special mission led by by Lakhdar Brahimi, Khartoum reluctantly agreed to allow a joint UN-AU technical assessment team into Sudan to undertake the necessary preparatory planning for a UN peacekeeping operation in Darfur.

That team, led by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno and AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Said Djinnit, were unable to convince President al-Bashir of the need to support a transition to a UN force.

On 31 August 2006, the Security Council adopted resolution 1706 in which it decided to expand UNMIS’ mandate by up to 17,300 international military personnel and up to 3,300 police and 16 Formed Police Units, to be deployed to Darfur. However, this was quickly and emphatically rejected by the Government of Sudan, and the clear signs on the ground in Darfur were that they had decided to pursue a military solution to the crisis in the region.

As the situation in Darfur continued to disintegrate, the Secretary-General, using the recommendations made by the assessment team, instead planned a series of measures to help bolster AMIS, pending deployment of a multidimensional UN peacekeeping operation, which he deemed necessary to implement the DPA. This proposed support included command and control; communications; enhanced mobility; engineering; training; location and sourcing of water; resource and administrative management; and public information.

While efforts by Security Council members, other key member states and regional organizations to persuade Khartoum to change its mind were undertaken, UNMIS continued its intensive efforts to bring the non-signatories into the peace process. UNMIS also continued its support to AMIS,which included establishing telephone and information technology networks, and providing training to AMIS on humanitarian issues and asset management systems. In addition, UNMIS provided public information support to help the AU promote the DPA, and UNMIS civil affairs officers on a number of occasions provided mediation and support to efforts to diffuse tension in the IDP camps.

On the humanitarian front, United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) continued to expand the massive humanitarian aid effort in the region in order to render aid to the increasing number of communities affected by the violence. While facing constant funding shortages, restrictions on access and instances of harassment and intimidation, the relief effort sustained more than 2.5 million people in the first half of the year. Some 13,000 humanitarian workers from over 80 NGOs, Red Cross/Red Crescent societies and 13 UN agencies were involved.

In addition, through the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UNDP, a significant human rights presence was consolidated in Darfur in 2006 to monitor and verify cases of human rights abuses, and provide human rights training, as well as legal representation for victims of torture, gender-based violence, and other human rights violations.

In the second half of 2006, the situation in on the ground in Darfur continued to deteriorate.Violence spiraled across the region; obstruction and attacks against humanitarian workers intensified; banditry was rampant; militia groups continued to target civilians; and the incidence of sexual violence against women and girls increased. By the end of the year, those in need of humanitarian assistance had risen to around 4 million, while over 400 humanitarian workers had been forced to relocate for their safety.

In addition, implementation of the DPA had fallen well behind schedule. The DPA bodies which had been formed, such as the Ceasefire Commission, suffered delays and disagreements over their functioning. Other DPA bodies were not established at all.

The Secretary-General warned the Security Council on 26 September that the region was facing a catastrophe and that the Government of Sudan and rebel groups were showing utter disregard to the DPA.He stressed the urgent need to broaden public support for the agreement through initiatives such as the Darfur- Darfur Dialogue and Consultation.

On 20 September, the AU PSC extended the AMIS mandate until 31 December 2006, and called on the UN to support AMIS. The UN and AU agreed on a package of immediate support, with a view to strengthening efforts to implement the DPA.

On 22 September, the Secretary-General and AU Chairman Konare wrote to President al-Bashir, asking that he support implementation of this plan. In a response, President al-Bashir indicated that he did.

At UN headquarters, a three-phased plan was developed: two stages of increasing support to AMIS, followed by a unique “hybrid” operation to be conducted in tandem by AU and UN peacekeepers.

On 16 November 2006, the Secretary-General convened a landmark, highlevel meeting in Addis Ababa, which brought together the five permanent members of the Security Council, representatives of the Government of Sudan, States and organizations with political influence in the region, and some AMIS troop contributing countries. The participants of the meeting agreed on the three-phased approach to peacekeeping in Darfur.This was then endorsed by the participants of the AU PSC on 30 November in Abuja, which was in turn endorsed, on 3 December by the Council of Ministers of the Sudan – under the chairmanship of President al-Bashir – and on 19 December by a Security Council presidential statement.

UNMIS has since been working intensively with the Secretariat and the AU to translate these positive political and diplomatic developments into concrete results on the ground, focusing on facilitating the deployment of the assistance packages.

Tragically, by the end of the year, the parties on the ground had shown no signs of abandoning the pursuit of their objectives through military means and as a result the prospects for vulnerable communities continued to look extremely bleak for 2007. In addition, the spill-over of violence to Chad and the Central African Republic was threatening a regional crisis of even greater proportions.

The year also ended on a sour personal note between UNMIS and the Government of Sudan when, in a letter dated 22 October 2006, the Government of Sudan “terminated” the mission of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan, Jan Pronk. Although the Secretary-General protested the decision with President al-Bashir, SRSG Pronk left when his contract ended at the end of the year.


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Prepared by the Peace and Security Section, United Nations Department of Public Information.

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