PRESS CONFERENCE ON AFRICAN UNION-UNITED NATIONS HYBRID OPERATION IN DARFUR

7 August 2007

PRESS CONFERENCE ON AFRICAN UNION-UNITED NATIONS HYBRID OPERATION IN DARFUR

7 August 2007
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE ON AFRICAN UNION-UNITED NATIONS HYBRID OPERATION IN DARFUR

United Nations peacekeeping leadership was “extremely determined” to meet the benchmarks set by the Security Council for deployment of an African Union-United Nations hybrid operation in violence-wracked Darfur by the end of the year, Jane Holl Lute, Acting Head of the Department of Field Support, told correspondents at Headquarters as she briefed them on preparations for the operation.

“The clock is ticking, and there are expectations,” Ms. Lute said, noting that planning and preparations for the hybrid force -- to be known as UNAMID -- had already been going on for many months before the 31 July Council resolution.  (See Press Release SC/9089.)  “This will translate into people on the ground, capabilities on the ground, resources on the ground -- of sufficient number to meet credibly the benchmarks that have been established by the Council,” she said.

That meant a flow of resources into Darfur to immediately establish a core command and control capacity, leading to, by October, the full financial and administrative arrangements necessary for the transfer of authority from the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) to UNAMID.  The new force would take effect on or before 31 October.

Achieving that goal required continuous dialogue with the African Union and its partners concerning AMIS needs during the transition, as well as active dialogue with the Government of the Sudan, she added.

With more than 26,000 military and policy personnel mandated by the Council, in addition to some 5,000 civilian staff, she confirmed that the operation would be the largest of its kind ever deployed by the United Nations.  Although she could not at this point issue any specifics, she said a meeting of troop-contributing countries held on 2 August had garnered a substantial portion of pledges needed for infantry elements, which, as planned, looked like they would be dominated by African units.

Key enablers, such as aviation and ground support that were expected from the non-African contributing countries, still fell short, she reported.  In the tight time frame, firm commitments from the troop contributors were needed by 15 August, with all contributions finalized within 30 days, according to the Council resolution.

In addition to contributions by the troop-contributing countries, the tripartite framework of mission support required the United Nations to supply the civilian staffing and management, she said.  Commercial contractors then provided the remaining services and resources.

The plan was for the operation’s headquarters to be located near the town of El Fasher in central Darfur, with additional sector headquarters in Nyala in the south and El Geneina in the west, all of which had airstrips of sufficient length, she said.  The subsector headquarters was planned for Zalingie, and up to 55 troop deployment sites were anticipated.

The major logistical difficulties being anticipated included the size and aridity of the province, she said, hence the need for transport aircraft and a complex water strategy, now being developed in conjunction with technical consultants.  That would allow for adequate supplies for personnel, while not depriving the populace.

Responding to questions from correspondents, she said that the cost of the operation was estimated at over $2 billion annually, but the figures were still in flux because such a large hybrid force was unprecedented.

Answering questions about logjams in logistics, she said that supplies were now moving through Port Sudan and were expected to continue to do so.

In terms of operations, she said the force was planned to be a highly mobile, dynamic one, not confined to static bases, with robust rules of engagement under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.  In addition to the standard armaments of infantry battalions, attack helicopters had been requested.

The operational concept was still being finalized, however, and would be continue to be developed as the force became familiar with the territory, she said.  As mentioned in the Council resolution, it was still Sudan’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens.  There were no provisions for “hot pursuit” of malfeasants across borders.

Finally, asked about humanitarian activities, she said support for such activities was a priority of the operation, which, like all other components, required the continued cooperation of the Sudanese Government.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.