PRESS CONFERENCE BY UNITED NATIONS, AFRICAN UNION SPECIAL ENVOYS FOR DARFUR

24 June 2008

PRESS CONFERENCE BY UNITED NATIONS, AFRICAN UNION SPECIAL ENVOYS FOR DARFUR

24 June 2008
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

PRESS CONFERENCE BY UNITED NATIONS, AFRICAN UNION SPECIAL ENVOYS FOR DARFUR

“If we now mobilize all efforts to get the security situation under control, avoid an escalation, then we may be able to create an environment in which talks can take place on substantive issues,” United Nations Special Envoy for Darfur Jan Eliasson told correspondents today at a Headquarters press conference.

Briefing together with his counterpart from the African Union, Salim Ahmed Salim, Mr. Eliasson said he had told the Security Council this morning that the peace process in Darfur was now at a serious junction, and that the focus should be on getting security under control and to take steps towards a credible cessation of hostilities.

Stressing the responsibility of regional actors, Mr. Eliasson said that, without normalization of the Chad-Sudan relations, there could be no peace in Darfur.  He also drew attention to the fact that the north-south relations in the Sudan had deteriorated and welcomed the fact that a Joint Chief Negotiator would be appointed who would have the full support of the Council.

Responding to correspondents’ questions about the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), Mr. Salim said its capability “still leaves a lot to be desired”.  Of the 26,000 troops that had been approved, there were now 10,000 troops on the ground, which was a slight improvement over the deployment of the preceding African Union Mission.  The question of mobility was another problem because there were not enough aviation assets.  Nor was there enough equipment.

“UNAMID, which raised a lot of expectations on the part of the people of Darfur, has yet to be able to effectively deliver because of the fact that they don’t have the required resources,” he said.  Even if the entire force was deployed, that force was in no position to impose peace, but without the deployment, it would be extremely difficult to start a meaningful political process.

Mr. Eliasson added that one of the movements, led by Abdul Wahid, had asked for minimum security on the ground before it would engage in the political process.  The aim was for 80 per cent of UNAMID to be deployed by the end of the year.  Hopefully, security would improve, particularly if the Council followed up by taking measures against anyone who escalated the conflict and if it took measures towards normalizing relations between Chad and the Sudan.

Mr. Salim said Abdul Wahid had always been a key player and, as such, he had to assume his responsibilities as a leader.  It was of concern, therefore, that he had refused to enter into any talks.  Moreover, his demand of minimum security meant that nothing could happen until the end of the year, according to the most optimistic assessment.  Because of Mr. Wahid’s concerns, the idea of informal security consultations had come up, but Mr. Wahid had declined to participate, partly because of recent events in the Sudan.

Business as usual could not continue, Mr. Salim added.  Both Envoys had travelled extensively and had met rebels on the ground, in order to get the movements involved in the process.  Despite those efforts, and despite the fact that the Envoys had started to take civil society involvement seriously -- the movements and the Government did not have a monopoly on representation -- there was now an impasse in the peace process.  Thus, it was time to rethink strategy. 

Asked what had gone wrong after the Arusha process in 2007, Mr. Salim said the Arusha talks had provided space for movements to interact, which had resulted in the “Common Platform”.  Immediately after Arusha, however, divisions emerged in the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).  While Arusha had started with seven groups, there were now, despite all efforts, only five groups left, and some of those five were now disintegrating.  That fragmentation would certainly be a challenge for the Joint Chief Negotiator.

As for incentives, he said it was important for the Security Council and the international community to make clear that anyone, whether Governments or movements, who obstructed the process, should be dealt with.  Mr. Eliasson added that the Government of the Sudan, the strongest party, should be asked to give signals of more power- and wealth-sharing, and disarming of the Janjaweed.

In terms of JEM’s motivation for attacking Khartoum in May, Mr. Eliasson declined to speculate, but said that, in the weeks before the attack, he had made it clear to the movement’s leadership that there was no military solution, and that the road to escalation would only lead to negative political reactions.  The attack had certainly complicated the situation.  However, although the Government claimed it was dealing with a “terrorist” group, some lines of communication should be open. 

Addressing a question about Chad, both Envoys stressed that, unless there was a normalization of relations between Chad and the Sudan, a breakthrough in Darfur was unimaginable.  The responsibility for that lay with both Governments, but it was important that the Council supported such normalization.  Member States in a position to do so also had a responsibility to exert influence bilaterally.

“We must now mobilize all political energy, internally in the Sudan, and externally, to make sure that we don’t have an escalation of hostilities,” Mr. Eliasson said, adding that dreams of military solutions should be abandoned.

Commenting on the International Criminal Court, both Envoys expressed respect for that separate track of the United Nations, stressing that impunity should never be allowed to prevail and that accountability was crucial.  Mr. Salim hoped that the consequences of Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s actions would not influence the process negatively.  He had also hoped that the Governments would have cooperated more constructively with the Court.  Mr. Eliasson added that, although impunity should not be allowed to prevail, timing was also important.

Radicalization in internally displaced persons camps happened because hundreds of thousands of people were confined to a camp, with no hope, Mr. Salim replied to another question.  There were also attempts to bring arms into the camps for internally displaced persons.

To a question about the humanitarian situation, Mr. Eliasson said that one of the problems was access for humanitarian activities because of the security situation, especially in areas controlled by movements.  There were problems with banditry, hijackings and assassination of drivers.  That situation was compounded by rising food prices.  “The margin is extremely thin,” he said, adding, “If there is an escalation, we may have a massive humanitarian crisis of the nature we haven’t seen for the last three or four years.”

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