|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5817th Meeting (AM)
PEACEKEEPING HEAD, BRIEFING SECURITY COUNCIL, REPORTS ‘DRAMATIC DETERIORATION’
IN DARFUR SECURITY, UN HYBRID MISSION MANY MONTHS FROM FULL DEPLOYMENT
States Operation Still Lacks Critical Units, Equipment;
Says Government Has Confirmed Intention to Investigate Attack on UN Convoy
With a “dramatic deterioration” in the security situation in the Sudan’s troubled Darfur regions and the joint United Nations-African Union force set up to stem the violence there seriously behind schedule, the world body’s top peacekeeping official today appealed to the Security Council -- and the wider international community -- to help speed up delivery of vital units and equipment and to promote the political process to ensure full deployment of the critically under-strength mission.
Vowing to continue to build on the “modest momentum” created by the transfer of authority last week from the undermanned African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to the hybrid African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, stressed in his detailed briefing to the Security Council that, at the same time, “we must move forward with a realistic understanding of the situation we face”.
War with cross-border dimensions was ongoing, he said, highlighting “extremely worrying developments”, including clashes and retaliatory attacks between Sudanese Armed Forces and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and the escalating tension between the Sudan and Chad, as well as reports of increased violence by Chadian rebels. That particular development had the potential to assume international, cross-border dimensions, and such a shift would have a “devastating impact” on refugees and displaced persons on both sides of the border and inevitably make the international community’s current efforts to deploy peacekeeping operations in both countries more difficult.
“The violence in West Darfur presents a fundamental challenge to UNAMID, which is a peacekeeping force not designed to function in a war zone,” he continued. That scenario had taken an unforeseen and “deeply disturbing” turn just two nights ago, when a UNAMID convoy of more than 20 clearly marked white vehicles moving at low speed had come under fire from the Sudanese Army, as the convoy moved from Un Baru to Tine in West Darfur.
The convoy, whose movements had been confirmed with the Government and rebels in advance, and which had been comprised mostly of large trucks carrying rations for UNAMID personnel in West Darfur, had come under sustained fire from light weapons and rocket propelled grenades, for some 10 to 12 minutes. He said that a Sudanese civilian driver suffered seven gunshot wounds during the incident. UNAMID troops had elected not to return fire and took up a defensive position.
After the attack, he added, the UNAMID Deputy Force Commander had been telephoned by the Sudanese Army’s area commander, who had confirmed that it had indeed been a Sudanese Armed Forces unit that had fired on the convoy. The convoy eventually managed to reach Tine close to midnight and the injured driver was now receiving treatment at the Tine team site.
He said that he had met yesterday with the Sudan’s Permanent Representative, who had confirmed Khartoum’s commitment to ensuring the safety and security of UNAMID personnel, and also, more broadly, to the full implementation of resolution 1769 (2007). The representative had also confirmed his Government’s intention to launch an investigation into the incident, with the participation of the United Nations. Welcoming those initiatives, he stressed: “The viability of the mission depends on ensuring that this never happens again.”
On the status of the mission itself, he stressed that, of the Council-mandated 20,000 troops and more than 6,000 police, just some 9,000 uniformed personnel were on the ground and the mission lacked critical aviation capabilities. Moreover, five months after the adoption of resolution 1769 (2007), there were still no guarantees or arrangements from the Sudanese Government on basic technical issues. With all that in mind, he said that UNAMID would not have the personnel or assets in place to implement its mandate for many months, “even in the best case scenario”.
He went on to report that many of the unresolved issues depended on the outcome of discussions with the Sudanese Government, including final confirmation of the composition of the force, finalization of the Status of Forces Agreement, provision of land for the mission, clearance to function 24 hours a day and an unequivocal agreement on the accoutrements for military and police personnel of UNAMID.
Discussions on the composition of the UNAMID military component had been going on for more than three months now. The Government had verbally rejected the combined Nordic engineering unit, which would have serious consequences for the speed of the deployment. He thanked the Nordic countries who had worked very hard to contribute the unit. According to the Government, the outstanding issues were technical and should be resolved on that basis, Mr. Guéhenno said, and added, “We fully agree and believe that there is no good reason that these issues should persist ad infinitum, especially in light of the adverse impact they are having on the deployment of the mission and implementation of its mandate.”
He said that, at the moment, the Mission was effectively a re-hatted AMIS. While the advance party of the Chinese engineering company and the formed police unit from Bangladesh were currently in theatre, the great majority of troops were made up of personnel who had served with AMIS. The new UNAMID units must deploy to Darfur as swiftly as possible, in order to have a material impact on the situation in the first half of the year.
Negotiations about the Memorandum of Understanding with troop-contributing countries were not moving fast enough and some countries had begun to set conditions for their participation, including proposals to limit operations to daytime hours and restriction of movement to the immediate vicinity of UNAMID military bases. If those conditions were accepted, the mission would lose its capacity to implement its mandate in any manner.
He said that deployment challenges continued to be compounded by the shortfalls in a number of critical areas. Since his last briefing to the Council, the Department had not received offers for critical transportation and aviation assets. Those missing units -- one heavy and one medium transport unit, three military utility aviation units (18 helicopters), and one light tactical helicopter unit (6 helicopters) -- would enable UNAMID to move personnel and resources over large areas with the speed required to respond to crises.
Such units would also allow for rapid re-supply of units based in insecure locations. “We are already feeling the constraints of these gaps in requirements, as we are now forced to re-supply our troops by road,” he said, adding that it was time consuming and would become prohibitively more difficult, if not impossible, during much of the rainy season. He also regretfully informed the Council that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations was now faced with a shortfall for one multi-role logistics unit, after a troop-contributing country providing that unit had withdrawn its offer; and one reconnaissance unit, following the technical determination that the unit pledged did not meet requirements.
To address those continued gaps in the force, he said that Department of Peacekeeping Operations had convened a meeting with troop-contributing countries on 27 December, during which peacekeeping officials had highlighted the missing units and requested Member States to provide the required assets. At that meeting, the United Kingdom had offered to convene a meeting to focus generating the missing units. The Department very much welcomed that and any other initiative that Council members or the Organization’s wider membership would be willing to undertake regarding that matter.
In the meantime, Mr. Guéhenno said the Secretary-General and the Secretariat would continue to pursue all options to fill that critical gap. To that end, the Department was in consultations with Ukraine to explore the possibility of transferring tactical helicopters from another mission. The Department was also exploring proposals from the Russian Federation, which could involve providing airframes to other troop-contributing countries.
Still, even as the Department of Peacekeeping Operations applied its energies to fully accelerating deployment and filling gaps in the forces, it was also facing “a dramatic deterioration” in the security situation in Darfur. Clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Justice and Equality Movement in West Darfur had also led to a number of civilian casualties and the relocation of 283 humanitarian staff from several locations in the state. On 29 December, the Justice and Equality Movement launched an attack on the local police station and Sudanese Armed Forces based in Seleia, a town north of El Geneina. While there were differing reports regarding the intensity of the conflict and casualties incurred, it had been confirmed that the Movement ultimately had taken control of the town.
He said that four days later the Justice and Equality Movement had seized the Government controlled towns of Sirba and Abu Suruj, which were also located north of Seleia. Both in the press and in discussions between Movement leader Khalil Ibrahim and United Nations officials in the field, he had repeatedly threatened to attack El Geneina, the state capital. “The Secretary-General strongly condemned JEM’s acts of aggression and bellicose posture,” he added. Following the Movement’s attack on Seleia, authorities from the Government of the Sudan’s military intelligence surrounded the accommodations of Major General
Bashir, the Justice and Equality Movement representative to the ceasefire commission in El Fasher. The Government personnel were encountered by the AMIS protection force already guarding the premises.
Despite the efforts of senior AMIS and United Nations leadership to persuade the commanding military intelligence officer to halt the operation, Major General Bashir and five other Justice and Equality Movement representatives were arrested and taken into custody. Military intelligence authorities had justified the arrest of the Movement’s representative by alleging that he was behind the attack in Seleia earlier that day. “This is a worrying development, and jeopardizes the integrity of those mechanisms that have been established to bring a cessation to the ongoing hostilities in Darfur,” he said.
He went on to say that the situation in Darfur had also taken a serious turn for the worse due to the hostilities involving Chadian elements. Media reports, as well as those received from UNAMID, indicated that the Government of Chad may have engaged Chadian rebels in Sudanese territory on a number of occasions. There had also been widespread media reports suggesting that the Chadian Air Force might had bombed locations south of West Darfur, where Chadian rebels were believed to have congregated.
Finally, he said that the recent upsurge of fighting in Eastern Chad and West Darfur, and the mobilization of the Justice and Equality Movement and Sudanese Armed Forces around El Geneina, were “a cause of great concern”, and sent an “extremely negative signal” with regard to the prospects of a political settlement to the Darfur crisis. “For the substantive negotiations to begin, it would also be important that the Government of National Unity agree on a common negotiating team and come well prepared to the talks,” he added.
“Without decisive progress on each of these […] issues, we will face dire consequences for international efforts to bring peace and stability to Darfur,” he declared, appealing to the Council and to the entire international community to help on those and all other remaining problems, including the necessary specialized capabilities and equipment and the political process. “This is collective responsibility,” he declared.
Security Council President Giadalla A. Ettalhi of Libya opened the meeting noting that his delegation’s term of office as an elected member of the 16-nation body had begun on 1 January. Libya pledged to carry out its singular responsibility as Council President “with a renewed commitment to the indispensable work of the United Nations and the ideals of the Charter”, he said, welcoming all the other newly-elected non-permanent members: Burkina Faso; Costa Rica, Croatia and Viet Nam.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:38 a.m.
* *** *