NORTH-SOUTH PEACE AGREEMENT IN SUDAN SHOULD FURTHER SOLUTION TO CONFLICT IN DARFUR, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

11 January 2005
SC/8290

NORTH-SOUTH PEACE AGREEMENT IN SUDAN SHOULD FURTHER SOLUTION TO CONFLICT IN DARFUR, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

11/01/2005
Press ReleaseSC/8290

Security Council

5109th Meeting (PM)

NORTH-SOUTH PEACE AGREEMENT IN SUDAN SHOULD FURTHER SOLUTION

 

TO CONFLICT IN DARFUR, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

But Possibility of Intensified Violence

In Darfur Must Be Addressed, Says Special Representative

The conclusion on Sunday of the north-south peace agreement by the warring parties in the Sudan would improve the capacity to solve the conflict in Darfur in the long term, but that did not exclude the possibility that the signing would be followed in the short term by an intensification of violence in and around Darfur, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to the Sudan, Jan Pronk, told the Security Council today.

Briefing the Council upon his return from the signing ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya, Mr. Pronk, who also heads the peace support operation, said that the milestone agreement heralded the definitive end of nearly four decades of brutal conflict, in which hundreds of thousands of people had been killed; 4 million had been uprooted and displaced; and more than half a million had taken refuge in neighbouring countries.  He congratulated the people of the Sudan and beckoned them not to focus on past divisions, but on future unity in diversity.

“Peace has been proclaimed and now we are going to make it work:  the Sudanese themselves, together with their partners in the international community”, Mr. Pronk said.  There was no room for cynicism; an end had come to last century’s longest war in Africa, with the largest number of victims.  The road ahead was long, however, including such “stumbling blocks” as the disarmament of former combatants, and the need to foster the return of displaced persons and refugees and reintegrate them into the economy and society.  Battlefields had to be demined, and southern militant groups that had not participated in the peace talks would have to be incorporated into the structures that had been created without them.

Saying it was hard to imagine that the peace dividend promised by the Nairobi Agreement could be reaped without an end to the suffering in Darfur, he said now there could be no question as to the priority task for 2005 -- the fighting in Darfur must be stopped and the conflict must be resolved.  Now, however, violence was seeping into the camps and directly affecting humanitarian workers.  Armed groups were re-arming and the conflict was spreading outside Darfur.  December saw a build-up of arms, attacks on positions, raids on small towns and villages, and increased banditry and looting.  New rebel movements were emerging and launching attacks in the area of oil facilities in western Kordofan.

Warning that the situation might be moving into a period of intense violence unless swift action was taken and new approaches were considered, Mr. Pronk said that everything must be done to ensure that there were more African Union troops on the ground.  Above all, the parties must be persuaded that it is truly in their interests to respect the ceasefire and pursue a settlement through peaceful means.  Along that line, he made several suggestions, including de-linking the talks on Darfur’s political future from those on security and humanitarian access.  Both the Government and rebel forces must exercise full restraint and withdraw behind reasonable and well-defined lines, such as those prevailing on 8 December 2004.

He also urged the parties to communicate full details of their troop locations to the African Union Cease Fire Commission and declare their willingness to agree on a plan of separation of forces.  They must also identify practical means to ensure that their forces’ basic survival needs were met, without violating the ceasefire.  That would stabilize the situation, diminish the urge to steal, loot and kill, and make the delivery of relief aid to unarmed people less dangerous.  The rebel movements should commit themselves not to disrupt the seasonal movement of nomadic tribes and their cattle, and the Government should hasten the arrest of those responsible for the atrocities against civilians.

The meeting began at 3:45 p.m. and was adjourned at 4:15 p.m.

Background

When the Security Council met this afternoon to consider the situation in the Sudan, it had before it the latest report of the Secretary-General on the subject (document S/2005/10).  In it, he identifies several issues requiring the immediate attention of the international community, both regarding the ceasefire and the political talks.  He stresses, among other things, that the parties must be persuaded, by a combination of pressure and assurances from influential Member States, that it is truly in their interests to pursue a settlement through peaceful means and respect the ceasefire.

The Secretary-General notes in the report that, six months after he travelled to the Sudan and the Government agreed to the Joint Communiqué on 3 July 2004, there is a political stalemate.  The security situation is still very poor.  Regarding humanitarian access, the picture is mixed.  Talks between the parties in Darfur have not yielded concrete results or much narrowing of the gap on the issues.  Despite regular statements to the contrary, the parties have yet to commit in practice to the implementation of the humanitarian ceasefire.

On security, the report finds that new problems came into focus in December.  Violence, hitherto a source of fear on the fringes of internally displaced persons centres and in conflict areas, is seeping in to the camps themselves and directly affecting humanitarian workers.  The internally displaced are still suffering, and refugees are not returning in sufficient numbers to allow the planting of crops to sustain their families through the coming year.  Restriction on freedom of movement is causing livestock to be lost on a huge scale.  The pressures on the parties to abide by their commitments are not having a perceptible effect on the ground.

Thus, the Secretary-General concludes that there is a need to reconsider what measures are required to improve security and protection for the internally displaced persons in Darfur.

Meanwhile, the report says that the volume of assistance and access has expanded over the last six months, but the number of conflict-affected people has increased too, leaving many still beyond the reach of assistance, and consequently short of food, water and other elements of a secure and healthy life.  The fighting now affects humanitarian work more frequently and more directly than bureaucratic restrictions ever did, with fatal and tragic consequences.

On security, the report says that the armed groups are re-arming and the conflict is spreading outside Darfur.  Large quantities of arms have been carried into Darfur in defiance of the Security Council decision taken in July.  The build-up of arms and intensification of violence, including air attacks, suggest that the security situation is deteriorating.  New rebel movements are emerging and launching attacks in the area of oil facilities in Western Kordofan.  The Secretary-General is concerned that the situation might move into a period of intense violence unless swift action is taken.  In the long term, the signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement will improve capacity to solve the problems in Darfur.  The Secretary-General expects, however, the signature of the agreement to be followed in the short term by an intensification of violence in the region.

The report also states that the Comprehensive Agreement will remove some of the stumbling blocks and pave the way for a new approach, but several issues need the immediate attention of the international community, both regarding the ceasefire and the political talks.  Regarding the former, a move from the current fragile ceasefire to a resolution to the conflict in Darfur depends on accomplishing six tasks.  First, the parties must be persuaded that it is truly in their interests to pursue a settlement through peaceful means and respect the ceasefire.  Then they must communicate their troop locations to the African Union Cease Fire Commission (AUCFC) and agree on a plan of separation of forces.  This is the most important pre-condition for movement on the steps outlined below.

To minimize attacks by armed personnel on civilians, the parties must identify practical means to ensure that their forces’ basic survival needs are met, including supplies to the combatants, without violating the ceasefire.  The Joint Commission is too dependent on the good will and cooperation of the parties, which has so far prevented most of its recommendations from being implemented.  An amendment to its modalities would go a long way towards improving the credibility and effectiveness of the Commission.  Also, pro-active follow-up on the implementation of previous commitments and obligations could reduce the level of violence on the ground and build confidence in the peace process.

In addition, the report says that the strengthening of the African Union force on the ground has proved to be effective, not only in monitoring tasks, but more importantly in protecting the civilians by a combination of deterrence and good offices.  The Union had not been able to put in as many forces as originally hoped, and they need help from the international community to make it happen.  “We need to do whatever is required, working with the African Union and others, to accelerate the rate of deployment and ensure that we have more troops on the ground to assist”, the Secretary-General urges.

The perpetrators of violations of human rights law and crimes under international humanitarian law must not go unpunished, the report also says.  Indications that the militias are once again active in connection with Government offensives are worrying.  The failure of the Government to act in compliance with the Security Council’s demands in resolution 1556 (2004) has consequences for the determination of responsibility for these crimes.  All support must continue to go to the Commission of Inquiry set up to look into these matters.

Regarding the political process itself, action in three areas could be key to putting the Abuja process on the right track, the report states.  First, the parties should commit themselves to proceeding with political talks without further delay.  While not underestimating the importance of compliance with the ceasefire agreement, security issues should be addressed by the African Union Cease Fire Commission and the Joint Commission.  Through their cooperation and information sharing with the United Nations Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS), these could bring infractions to the Council’s attention.  Second, the parties must be assisted to agree on a Declaration of Principles that addresses the core issues of power and wealth sharing, as well as the integration of the Darfur peace talks into the wider process of peacemaking in the Sudan.

Third, the report continues, while the current negotiation process between the Government and the rebel groups, SLM/JEM, should proceed, it would be useful to start thinking of ways to create a broad and strong support base for a sustainable peace.  Restoring peace in Darfur will require reconciliation and restoration of the social fabric in that region.  Reconciliation will have to include all social groups and segments of the population in Darfur, especially non-armed groups and victims of the current violence.

The report says that the only alternative to finding new measures is to find a way of deploying as many personnel on the ground as possible, as all agree that the presence of monitors and police and an international presence often dissuade the attacks.  The African Union force, itself now under threat of attacks, has done more than any other outside agent to improve the security situation on the ground by its presence and its actions to mediate and forestall violent actions.  Whatever actions and new initiatives are undertaken, the African Union, both in its troops on the ground and its leadership of the political process, will remain, for the foreseeable future, the best mechanism for promoting peace in Darfur.

Briefing Summary

JAN PRONK, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the Sudan and head of the peace support operation, informed members that he had participated in the signing ceremony of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Government of the Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement.  The milestone agreement heralded the definitive end of nearly four decades of brutal conflict, in which hundreds of thousands of people had been killed; 4 million had been uprooted and displaced; and more than half a million had taken refuge in neighbouring countries.  He congratulated the people of the Sudan and beckoned them not to focus on past divisions, but on future diversity in unity and unity in diversity.

He added, however, that the agreement was not the end-all, but the beginning of a long and arduous process of peace-building.  Among the many stumbling blocks on the road ahead was the disarmament and demobilization of former combatants and the need to return displaced persons and refugees and reintegrate them into the economy and society.  Former battlefields had to be de-mined, and southern militant groups that had not participated in the peace talks would have to be incorporated into new structures that had been created without them.  Expectations about welfare, education and other social and economic needs also had to be met.

He warned that failure might endanger stability and feed new conflicts, but added that the first step had been set, and its importance could not be overestimated.  There was no room for cynicism; an end had come to last century’s longest war in Africa, with the largest number of victims.  “Peace has been proclaimed and now we are going to make it work:  the Sudanese themselves, together with their partners in the international community”, he said.

It was hard to imagine that the peace dividend promised by the Nairobi Agreement could be reaped without an end to the suffering in Darfur, he said.  Yet, as long as there was war in some part of the country, resources would be spent on weapons, not welfare.  Investors would be reluctant, entrepreneurs would hesitate, young people with brains and initiative would want to leave the country, and displaced people would wander around.  Peace was indivisible, also in the Sudan, however large and diversified the country.

So, after the conclusion and signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south, there could be no question as to the priority task for 2005, he said.  The fighting in Darfur must be stopped; the conflict must be resolved; and the affected people must be able to return to their homes.  At the beginning of the year, however, the security situation in Darfur was still bad.  The humanitarian situation was poor, and the picture was mixed with respect to humanitarian access.  Politically, Darfur found itself in a stalemate.

Elaborating the dimensions of the crisis, he said that new security problems had come into focus in December.  Violence was seeping into the camps themselves and directly affecting humanitarian workers.  Some national staff members of non-governmental organizations had been abducted and were still missing, and others had been harassed.  The internally displaced persons continued to suffer.  Refugees were not returning in sufficient numbers to allow the planting of crops to sustain their families for the coming year.  In addition, restricted freedom of movement was causing livestock to be lost on a huge scale.

He said that the armed groups were re-arming and the conflict was spreading outside Darfur.  Large quantities of arms had been carried into the region in defiance of the Council decision taken in July.  December had seen a build-up of arms; attacks on positions, including air attacks; raids on small towns and villages; increased banditry; and more looting.  New rebel movements were emerging and launching attacks in the area of oil facilities in Western Kordofan.  “We may be moving into a period of intense violence unless swift action is taken and new approaches are considered”, Mr. Pronk warned.  That was all the more necessary in the light of the poor humanitarian situation.

The volume of assistance and access had expanded over the last six months, but the number of conflict-affected people had increased as well, leaving many still beyond the reach of assistance and consequently short of food, water, sanitation and shelter, he said.  The objective was to meet the international standards for humanitarian assistance, or approximately 2,000 calories per capita per day.  In mid-2004, the situation was far below those standards.  Towards the end of the year, they were close to being met for food, nutrition and health services, though not for water, sanitation and shelter.

At the same time, he said, the total number of persons to be helped was still increasing, owing to the recent displacements following the fighting in November and December.  As a result of the fighting, it was even more difficult to reach them than before.  The fighting now affected humanitarian work more frequently and more directly than bureaucratic restrictions ever did, with fatal and tragic consequences.  The road clearing operation, which had been launched by the Government in December to make the roads safe for traffic, had not resulted in more safety, but in less.  The looting and pillaging continued, banditry was on the increase, trucks had been stolen at gunpoint and some drivers had been killed.

He said that talks on Darfur had not yielded concrete results or narrowed the gap much on the issues.  Despite regular statements to the contrary, the parties had yet to commit in practice to the implementation of the humanitarian ceasefire.  The delay in reaching the agreement between Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) had also produced a stalemate in the Darfur talks.  That had applied both to the implementation of the N’Djamena ceasefire agreement and to the Abuja talks on the political dimension of the conflict.  The stalemate at the negotiation table had led to a worsening of the security situation on the ground.  That, in turn, did not contribute to the willingness of the parties to engage themselves in a dialogue on the root causes of the conflict and on political aims and reform.

In the long term, the signature of the north-south Peace Agreement was an opportunity for Darfur and would improve the capacity to solve that conflict, he said.  He did not exclude the possibility, however, that the signature of the agreement would be followed in the short-term by an intensification of violence in and around Darfur.  Some on the ground even perceived the conclusion of the north-south peace as providing a cover for their aggression, offering a brief window of immunity from international criticism about their actions in Darfur.  Government forces might be tempted to think that, after the signature of the north-south agreement, for which they had received much praise, the international community would not dare to put the implementation of that agreement at risk.  That could lead to the suggestion that now was the time to deliver a decisive blow to the enemy.

In turn, he said that the rebel movements might perceive the north-south agreement as an indication that they had been further marginalized, or as proof that an intensification of military activities would be the only way for them to be taken seriously in political talks.  Both perceptions would be false, and both reactions dangerous.  Indeed, the Comprehensive Agreement would remove some of the stumbling blocks and pave the way for an approach that could help the parties break the vicious cycle.  The parties must be persuaded, by a combination of pressure and assurances from influential Member States, that it is truly in their interests to respect the ceasefire and pursue a settlement through peaceful means.

Along that line, he made the following suggestions:  de-linking the talks on the political future of Darfur from those on security and humanitarian access; empowering the Darfur ceasefire institutions in the way same as the north-south ceasefire institutions, meaning the assessment of any breaches should be made independently of the parties, and the institutions would be enabled to make binding recommendations requiring unconditional implementation; insisting that both the Government and the rebel movements exercise full restraint -- no attacks and no retaliations -- calling on them to withdraw behind reasonable and well-defined lines, such as those prevailing on 8 December 2004, before the commencement of the road-clearing operation by the Government.

Each party should give up the positions taken and declare that they would not occupy the positions given up by the other party, he continued.  Thereafter, the African Union could move in and protect the areas concerned.  That would be the beginning of a demilitarization of parts of Darfur.  Parties should also communicate full details of their troop locations to the African Union Cease Fire Commission and declare their willingness to agree on a plan of separation of forces, drawn up by the Commission.  The parties must identify practical means to ensure that their forces’ basic survival needs were met, including supplies of food to the combatants, without violating the ceasefire.  That would stabilize the situation and diminish the urge to steal, loot and kill.  That would also make the rendering of relief assistance to people without weapons less dangerous.

He said the Government should make a new start with the disarmament of the Popular Defence Forces, as announced last August.  It should present names and numbers of the disarmed to the African Union and store weapons in safe locations with African Union oversight.  The rebel movements should commit themselves not to block or disrupt peaceful seasonal movement of nomadic tribes and their cattle.  Such actions deprived the tribes of their usual source of livelihood and provoked tribal militia to attack the civilian population.  The Government, in turn, should control and restrain the militia, either by force or through tribal reconciliation.  In addition, joint action, involving the Government, the SLA and the African Union, should be planned in order to stop the banditry.

The Government should also hasten the arrest of those responsible for the major human rights violations and crimes against international humanitarian law, including when the perpetrators were Janjaweed, he said.  The Government had often declared that that could not be done overnight and, while that was so, it was not credible to wait six months after the commitment made in that regard to the United Nations Secretary-General last July in the Joint Communiqué.  The Government would be wise not to wait for the publication of the report of the Commission of Inquiry to show that it seriously wanted to address the crimes, maintain respect for human rights and end impunity.

Many of the steps required active adequate third-party involvement, namely, the African Union, he said.  The strengthening of the Union’s force on the ground had proved to be effective, not only in performing monitoring tasks, but also in protecting civilians through a combination of deterrence, mediation and good offices.  The Union’s force, itself presently under threat of attack, “has done more than any other outside agent to improve the security situation on the ground, by its presence and its actions to mediate and forestall violent actions”.  It had not been possible to put the number of forces on the ground that had been originally hoped.  For that, the help of the international community was needed.  Everything must be done to accelerate the deployment rate and ensure that there were more African Union troops on the ground, as only that would ensure the parties’ commitment to agreements and dissuade future attacks.

Third-party troops must be in place wherever violence might erupt, he said.  That included in and around all displaced persons’ camps, in all towns and villages under threat, and in all areas where refugees and displaced persons would want to return.  That was an enormous task, but the recent history of Darfur showed that, without such an independent and neutral protection force, women and children, the elderly, returnees and unarmed persons belonging to an adversary tribe would not be safe.  In the longer run, security, safety, peace and stability should be “home grown”, and sustained with outside help.  Agreement should also be reached on a declaration of principles that addressed the core issues of power- and wealth-sharing.  It was time to prepare a national conference aimed at reaching consensus among all political opponents on the modalities of a peaceful Sudan.

Also useful would be to start thinking of including tribal leaders in finding political solutions, even before reconciliation had taken place, he said.  Peace in Darfur required broad and strong support of all concerned, he said.  Parallel to those wider talks, reconciliation efforts should be intensified.  The international community would be wise to support those efforts, including with material assistance on an experimental basis, in order to make clear that home grown reconciliation was valued.  Also clear was that such reconciliation would have to include those who had refused to take up arms and, last but not least, the victims of war and violence.

He said that the time was ripe to renew and redouble efforts.  The climate was improving, and there was a north-south comprehensive peace agreement, to which there had been positive reactions, both in Rumbek and Khartoum.  He had also seen positive reactions among the people in both the north and the south, albeit, sometimes mixed with hesitation based on scepticism and earlier experience.  The parties were exercising a certain restraint and, contrary to expectations, the SLA had not launched an attack on the day of the signing.  And, last week, despite earlier ceasefire breaches, all of the parties declared respect for days of tranquillity in which the children would be vaccinated against polio.  This weekend, the Government declared its willingness to reconsider some of its previous hard-line positions, and yesterday, it followed that up by declaring its willingness to withdraw its forces to their pre-8 December positions.

Those positive signs could easily fade, but they were signs of hope that the spirit of Nairobi would affect Darfur, he said.  The political momentum was there.  It was fragile and could easily be spoiled, so grasping it required innovative action, consensus among the actors, steady cooperation, perseverance and a well-defined common strategy.  The second stage of the war between north and south Sudan had lasted for two decades.  Why should the war in Darfur last more than two years? he asked.

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For information media. Not an official record.