After a three-day retreat for Under-Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General of the United Nations system at the United Nations staff college in Turin, Italy, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew to Khartoum on Monday, 3 September, to begin his first official visit to the Sudan in his current capacity.
Upon arrival, after a meeting with his team and the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Taye Zerihoun, he gave a keynote address to the United Nations Association of the Sudan at the Friendship Hall in the Sudanese capital.
In his speech, the Secretary-General flagged the importance of moving ahead with the Darfur political process. “Everyone agrees there can be no military solution,” he said. “We need a ceasefire now. The violence must stop.” He added that a culture of impunity and a legacy of past crimes that go unaddressed can only erode the peace. See Press Release SG/SM/11140.
The Secretary-General then held a one-on-one meeting, followed by a dinner, with President Omar al-Bashir at the Presidential Guesthouse.
Early on Tuesday morning, the Secretary-General left Khartoum for Juba in Southern Sudan, where he demonstrated the United Nations’ commitment to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, met with key officials in Juba and showed support for United Nations staff who work and live in difficult conditions there.
At Juba airport, he was met by the President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, who is also the First-Vice President of the Sudan, and together they went to the mausoleum housing his predecessor John Garang, who was also former Chairman of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), and participated in a wreath-laying ceremony there.
Along his travel route, thousands of residents, including many children in school uniforms, lined the street of the only paved road in Juba and gave a rousing welcome to the Secretary-General.
A meeting with President Kiir followed, with a joint press encounter afterwards.
That afternoon, he met with the Council of Ministers and then with the Speaker of the Southern Sudanese Legislative Assembly, Wani Yiga, before visiting the compound of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) where he had lunch with peacekeepers and staff of UNMIS, the United Nations Country Team and the humanitarian consortium, and the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, and heard directly about the challenges they faced in their work in Southern Sudan.
The Secretary-General then delivered an address at Juba University. “To honour Dr. John’s vision”, the Secretary-General told the audience, “we need to push ahead on a broader initiative, underscored by my visit to Juba. That’s the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the north and the south, so important to you here in Juba. This remains an essential -- and fragile -- cornerstone of peace across the whole of Sudan, well beyond Darfur.” See Press Release SG/SM/11142.
He then held a town hall meeting at the UNMIS compound during which he awarded medals to 16 United Nations Military Observers ending their tour of duty in Juba.
In the evening, he attended a dinner hosted by the Government of Southern Sudan. He was presented with a cow -- a gift given in honour of an important guest. He then spent the night in a “container” housing unit, similar to the ones used by all staff working and living at the UNMIS compound.
Early on Wednesday, the Secretary-General flew to El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur.
His first stop was the headquarters of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), where he inspected a Guard of Honour before meeting with the Mission’s leadership, including the Joint United Nations-African Union Special Representative, Rodolphe Adada, and the AMIS Force Commander, Major General Martin Agwai. They briefed the Secretary-General on the work of the African Union Mission and the current security situation.
He then met with the Wali (governor) of North Darfur.
The Secretary-General then went to a meeting at UNMIS headquarters in El Fasher with representatives of internally displaced persons, who were self-selected from all three camps in the El Fasher area.
When he arrived, a group of uninvited people showed up and tried to force their way into the briefing. After a brief delay, the Secretary-General resumed his schedule in another part of UNMIS headquarters.
This included a meeting with three representatives of the original group and another with civil society and traditional leaders. The Secretary-General later met with representatives of that other group.
The Secretary-General also visited the Al Salam camp for internally displaced persons in El Fasher, which is the smallest of the three internally displaced persons’ camps in the El Fasher region. Thousands of displaced persons turned out to greet him and he told them that he brings with him a message of “hope, peace, security … and water”. He visited a water project and a child community space at the camp.
Later in the day, the Secretary-General visited the site of the future headquarters of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) in El Fasher before holding a press encounter and returning to Khartoum.
The Secretary-General began his last day in the Sudan with three back-to-back meetings. The first was with the Foreign Minister, Lam Akol, together with senior government officials. He then met with the Speaker of the National Assembly and members of Parliament, and after that with Mini Minawi, Senior Assistant to the President.
After a working lunch at UNMIS headquarters, the Secretary-General met with President al-Bashir and then held a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Akol. They announced the start of renewed peace talks on Darfur, scheduled to be held in Tripoli, Libya, on 27 October 2007.
A joint communiqué between the Government of the Sudan and the United Nations was issued at that press conference, expressing the hope that the parties would cooperate fully with the African Union and United Nations Special Envoys in order to ensure that negotiations are concluded as expeditiously as possible.
The Secretary-General held a town hall meeting with his staff before meeting with Sudanese opposition leaders at the hotel where he was staying.
He concluded his official visit to the Sudan by attending a reception hosted by the Foreign Ministry.
He left Khartoum for N’djamena, Chad, on Friday morning, 7 September.