CONTINUED FIGHTING IN DARFUR MAKES CLEAR PREPARING FOR NEGOTIATIONS NOT PRIORITY FOR GOVERNMENT, REBELS, WITH DIRE IMPLICATIONS, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

11 March 2008
SC/9271

CONTINUED FIGHTING IN DARFUR MAKES CLEAR PREPARING FOR NEGOTIATIONS NOT PRIORITY FOR GOVERNMENT, REBELS, WITH DIRE IMPLICATIONS, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

11 March 2008
Security Council
SC/9271
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5849th Meeting (AM)

CONTINUED FIGHTING IN DARFUR MAKES CLEAR PREPARING FOR NEGOTIATIONS NOT PRIORITY

FOR GOVERNMENT, REBELS, WITH DIRE IMPLICATIONS, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Briefs;

Says AU-UN Hybrid Operation ‘Far from Having a Meaningful Presence on the Ground’

The continued hostilities in Darfur were a stark reminder that urgent international engagement was needed to pressure the parties to lay down their weapons and commit to the path of dialogue, but the fighting had also made it clear that preparing for negotiations did not seem to be a priority for either the Government or rebel movements, with dire implications, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmond Mulet, said today.

Updating the Security Council on the recent violent outbreaks of fighting in West Darfur and providing an overview of the deployment status and priorities of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), he said that, on the one hand, negotiations were required to bring the crisis to an end, but with the Government’s intent on military action and the rebels either fighting or fragmenting, it was difficult to see an opening for political negotiations.  On the other hand, a peacekeeping operation alone could not bring security to Darfur. 

Noting that United Nations Special Envoy Jan Eliasson and African Union Special Envoy Salim Ahmed Salim had said the situation on the political front was “not promising”, he concurred that there was little prospect for beginning substantive negotiations with the parties “any time soon”.  The movements had made little progress towards unifying their positions and agreeing on a negotiation team, and the two most significant political and military factions, JEM-Khalil Ibrahim and the SLA-Abdul Wahid, remained outside the process.  Moreover, the lack of a clear Darfur strategy in the Government of National Unity did not indicate seriousness about making peace.

He highlighted the offensive by the Justice for Equality Movement (JEM) against Sudanese Armed Forces in Sirba and Seleia (north of El Geneina, West Darfur) in late December 2007 and early January 2008, and the large-scale ground and air military campaign by the Sudanese Government -- causing numerous deaths and tens of thousands of new displacements -- that had followed.

“The Government has the primary responsibility to protect civilians, but UNAMID has a strong complementary mandate.  However, it will not be in a position to comprehensively implement it until a critical mass of properly trained and equipped new troops and enabling assets are in place,” he said.  Although efforts were under way to implement the Security Council’s resolutions and do everything possible to improve the situation, UNAMID has “a long way to go and is far from having a meaningful presence on the ground”.

He pointed to persistent difficulties in efforts to reinforce the Mission:  insecurity; inconsistent levels of cooperation with the Government; logistical constraints; and force shortfalls.  As of 10 March, UNAMID’s total strength was 9,178 uniformed personnel.  During the coming weeks, he looked forward to the deployment of several additional enabling units and infantry to UNAMID, as well as the beginning of scheduled rotations of current troops.

It was “absolutely critical” that the incoming troops have self-sustaining capability and equipment to enable them to patrol and effectively carry out their operations, he continued.  Without self-sustainment, incoming troops were a burden on the Mission and became part of the problem, not the solution.

Recalling that the transportation of the Chinese engineering and Bangladeshi formed police unit equipment had taken seven weeks in November and December last year, he said: “We cannot afford a repeat of these delays, and we look to the Government of Sudan to facilitate the administrative, as well as the security arrangements for the earliest arrival of UNAMID cargo in the area of operations.”

Further, with the exception of Ethiopia’s pledge of four light tactical helicopters, credible offers for utility helicopters and the remainder of the light tactical helicopters, aerial reconnaissance aircraft and logistics and transport units remained outstanding.  Those “mission-critical gaps” made the job of deployment extremely difficult.  He urged the Council, once again, to support efforts to find and deploy those assets to the Mission, as soon as possible.

He reported that the United Nations and African Union Special Envoys were meeting with regional and international partners in Geneva on 17 and 18 March to take stock of the situation and hopefully reach an understanding on the way forward.

The meeting, which began at 10:05 a.m., adjourned at 10:32 a.m.

Background

As it considered the situation in Sudan this morning, the Security Council had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) (document S/2008/98), describing the extent of progress towards achieving full operational capability.

Addressing the security situation, the report states that, in Western Darfur, Chadian regular forces and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) launched several attacks inside Sudanese territory.  The situation in Northern and Southern Darfur saw a reduction of violence.  Tensions inside camps for the displaced across Darfur remained high and banditry and targeted attacks continued.

The top leadership of the Mission is now fully deployed, according to the report.  On 31 January, the total strength of UNAMID was 9,126 uniformed personnel, including 7,476 military personnel, 1,510 police officers and one formed police unit.  A total of 1,256 civilians, representing 23 per cent of the authorized strength, were deployed and 80 per cent of the force headquarters staff positions were filled at transfer of authority on 1 January.  UNAMID has absorbed 1,380 police officers from the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) and 124 light and heavy support package personnel.  The deployment of formed police units has been significantly delayed, with currently only the unit from Bangladesh being in the area.

The UNAMID force headquarters is in the process of developing its operational procedures, according to the report, but reconfiguring the force to be able to meet its mandated tasks is being hampered by the slow pace of equipment transfer from AMIS.  Delays in the deployment of UNAMID military and police units have limited the number of patrols that could be undertaken and limited the early effect the force could demonstrate to the people of Darfur.  Once an adequate number of police officers is deployed, the police component would introduce 24/7 patrols, which would enable the UNAMID police to assume a proactive posture and contribute to the creation of trust and confidence with local police and the communities in Darfur.

Stating that the deployment of UNAMID continues to face significant challenges in generating mandate-critical capabilities and securing land and clearance for goods and equipment, the report goes on to say that the process of generating aviation and transportation units has not yet been successful.  The Mission is still short of pledges for one heavy and one medium ground transport unit, three military aviation units (18 helicopters in total) and additional attack helicopters.  The loss of the Nordic unit, following the non-acceptance by the Government of the Sudan, seriously undermines the ability to establish and consolidate UNAMID’s presence in its vast area of operations.

The report goes on to describe the level of cooperation the Government of Sudan is offering, as well as the state of the several peace negotiations going on, stating that the African Union and the United Nations are seized of the need to appoint a joint United Nations-African Union chief mediator based in the Sudan full time to support the work of United Nations Special Envoy Jan Eliasson and African Union Special Envoy Salim Ahmed Salim.

In his report, the Secretary-General observes that the most urgent priority in Darfur is the establishment of a cessation of hostilities, with effective mechanisms for monitoring compliance and violations.  He urges the Government and all parties to cooperate fully with the efforts of the Special Envoys to convene negotiations as soon as possible.  The situation in Chad is of grave concern, and normalization of the bilateral relationship between Chad and Sudan is essential to the success of the peace process in Darfur and the long-term prospect for peace in both countries.

The Secretary-General observes that there is an urgent need to demonstrate to the population of Darfur that UNAMID will bring a material improvement to their daily lives.  Otherwise, the Mission risks losing the population’s confidence.  The Secretary-General, therefore, appeals to all troop and police contributors to expedite the deployment of units and assets they have pledged.  He also urges Member States to provide the outstanding enabling units, including air assets.  He welcomes the signing of the UNAMID status of forces agreement on 9 February.

Briefing

EDMOND MULET, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that, following the offensive by JEM against Sudanese Armed Forces in Sirba and Seleia (north of El Geneina, West Darfur) in late December 2007 and early January 2008, the Government of Sudan had launched a large-scale ground and air military campaign aimed at reasserting control over those towns, which JEM had labelled “liberated lands”, as well as over JEM and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) stronghold of Jebel Moon.  The tactics used by the Government had included joint Sudan Alliance Forces (SAF)-Janjaweed militia attacks, supported by fighter jets, helicopter gunships and Antonov aircraft.  Humanitarian agencies were extremely concerned by the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian assets, particularly clinics and water points in Jebel Moon.

He said that a massive Government attack on Abu Suruj, Sirba and Seleia on 8 February -- when the Council was last briefed -- had later been shown to have caused numerous deaths and tens of thousands of new displacements.  On 18 February, the Government and Janjaweed militia had attacked JEM and SLA-Abdul Wahid positions in Aro Sharow and the Kandare and Kurlungo areas of Jebel Moon, as well as the Wahid stronghold of Deribat further to the east in Jebel Marra.  Fighting between Government forces and JEM and SLA Wahid rebels, supported by Chad, had continued in Jebel Moon on 22 and 23 February, as well as on 26 and 27 February.  As a result of that violence, 70 civilians had been killed, 13,000 had sought refuge in Chad and 20,000 were said to be trapped in Jebel Moon.

Joint Special Representative Rodolphe Adada had been active in engaging the Government and had visited the areas affected by the crisis, he said.  A 10-day period of relative tranquillity had followed discussions between UNAMID and the Government, during which the Mission had sent daily military and police patrols from Kulbus and El Geneina to the northern corridor to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  As a result, 90 per cent of the population of Sirba and Abu Soruj had returned.  In Seleia, however, which had suffered large-scale destruction, only 1,500 of the 20,000 civilians had returned.  The population’s reluctance to return to the town was reportedly due to the presence of large numbers of Government troops in the area.  UNAMID determined that a company of soldiers from the Sudanese Armed Forces were present within Seleia, while a brigade -- or about 2,400 soldiers -- was in the area surrounding the town.  Additionally, there were reports of looting and harassment of women by Sudanese Armed Forces and Government allied militia in and around Seleia.

He noted that, on 5 March, the Government had indicated to UNMIS and UNAMID that it would send 500 central police to Seleia.  The area of Jebel Moon, however, remained inaccessible.  Government air strikes in Jebel Moon had resumed on 9 March, and he was extremely concerned about the safety of the 20,000 civilians who remained trapped in the area.  In addition, there were indications that a retaliation from JEM might take place once they had had time to regroup.  There had also been a marked upsurge of violence in February, in South Darfur and security incidents involving intertribal fighting in both North and South Darfur.

In another disturbing development, on 3 March, a French Special Forces officer in the European Union military operation -- EUFOR Chad -- had been killed and another had been wounded by Sudanese Armed Forces fire when they had accidentally crossed into Sudan, he reported.  It was clear that tensions between Chad and Sudan, and fighting carried out by proxy rebel forces had the potential to regionalize the crisis and derail international peace efforts on both sides of the border.  The normalization of relations between the two countries was essential if international efforts to restore stability were to succeed.  Tomorrow’s summit in Dakar, Senegal, between Presidents Omer Hassan A. al-Bashir and Idriss Déby, at the invitation of President Abdoulaye Wade, was an important opportunity in that regard.

He noted that, in response to the Government’s actions in West Darfur, on 5 March, the Secretary-General had called Foreign Minister Deng Alor Kuol and made clear that, notwithstanding arguments of the Sudanese Government that its actions had been in response to the military engagement of rebel movements, civilian suffering of that scale was unacceptable and signalled to the international community that the Government had no regard for the lives of its citizens or for humanitarian law.  The Secretary-General had also stressed that those actions were undermining prospects for political negotiations and posed fundamental challenges to UNAMID’s ability to fulfil its mandate.

Jan Eliasson had also talked to senior JEM and SLA-Abdul Wahid representatives and asked them to cease all hostilities, he noted, adding that JEM had said it would be unwilling to stop fighting unless a ceasefire was part of a broader political framework and discussions on security arrangements.  That was an extremely problematic position, considering the civilian suffering.

“While the Government has the primary responsibility to protect civilians, UNAMID has a strong complementary mandate in this regard that it will not be in a position to comprehensively implement until a critical mass of properly trained and equipped new troops and enabling assets are in place,” Mr. Mulet said.  Within its current capabilities, UNAMID vehicle patrols had been mounted in the area of south Jebel Moon from both Kulbus and El Geneina.  Those limited operations would continue as long as the situation in the area remained tense.  The longer-term intent was to reinforce Kulbus with additional troops so as to permit the continuous deployment from there to Seleia of at least one platoon.  UNAMID police would also increase its presence in Seleia as soon as appropriate facilities were built.  It would take some weeks, however, to establish camp, resupply and communications facilities for a sustained presence in Seleia, since no provision had heretofore been made for basing troops there.

He said that the Force Commander had increased his contacts with the parties, in order for the Mission to better assess their movements, intent and capabilities, while also instilling within them the confidence that UNAMID was an impartial actor in Darfur.  The Mission continued to work with the Government, JEM and SLA-Abdul Wahid to ensure that the civilians trapped by the fighting were given safe passage to a secure location.

“The fighting in Darfur makes clear that preparing for political negotiations does not seem to be a priority for either the Government or rebel movements,” he said, adding that “the implications are dire”.  One the one hand, negotiations were required to bring the crisis to an end.  But, with the Government intent on military action and the rebels either fighting or fragmenting, it was difficult to see an opening for political negotiations.  On the other hand, a peacekeeping operation alone could not bring security to Darfur. 

Nevertheless, he said, “we are pressing forward to implement the Council’s resolutions and to do all we can to improve the situation.  At the same time, it is important to recognize that UNAMID has a long way to go and is far from having a meaningful presence on the ground.”  Difficulties persisted in efforts to reinforce the Mission: insecurity; inconsistent levels of cooperation with the Government; logistical constraints; and force shortfalls.

As of 10 March, UNAMID’s total strength was 9,178 uniformed personnel, including 7,441 military personnel, 1,597 police officers and one formed police unit, he reported.  A total of 1,312 civilians had been deployed.  The majority of the military and police personnel currently in the Mission had been inherited from AMIS.  In addition, the 135-person advance party of the Chinese company of engineers was now permanently based in the Nyala supercamp, where it continued its work to develop the Mission’s infrastructure.  The unit’s main body of 175 troops was scheduled to complete its deployment to Nyala by early April.  The formed police unit from Bangladesh was co-located with the engineering unit in Nyala and was patrolling on a daily basis.

During the coming weeks, he said, he looked forward to the deployment of several additional enabling units and infantry to UNAMID, as well as the beginning of scheduled rotations of current troops.  The timely deployment of the various battalions, including Egyptian, Ethiopian, Thai and Nepalese, would be linked to donor countries’ efforts to support troop contributors with equipment, training and self-sustaining capability.  The priority for that support was to increase the capacity of the existing ex-AMIS troops and their rotations, which were due to deploy in the next three to four months.  It was “absolutely critical” that the incoming troops have self-sustaining capability and equipment to enable them to patrol and effectively carry out their operations.  Without self-sustaining capability, incoming troops were a burden on the Mission and became part of the problem, not the solution.

He drew the Council’s attention to the fact that the transportation of the Chinese engineering and Bangladeshi formed police unit equipment had taken seven weeks in November and December last year, during which time the units had not been operational.  “We cannot afford a repeat of these delays and we look to the Government of Sudan to facilitate the administrative, as well as the security arrangements for the earliest arrival of UNAMID cargo in the area of operations.”

With the exception of Ethiopia’s pledge of four light tactical helicopters, credible offers for utility helicopters and the remainder of the light tactical helicopters, aerial reconnaissance aircraft and logistics and transport units remained outstanding.  Those “mission-critical gaps” made the job of deploying UNAMID extremely difficult.  He urged the Council, once again, to support efforts to find and deploy those assets to the Mission, as soon as possible. 

In the short term, he said, UNAMID’s ability to absorb new units was constrained by its limited logistical capacity and the lack of “mission enablers” for the establishment of transit accommodations.  But that ultimately depended on the level of self-sustainment of the incoming units.  The force was also facing challenges in its transition from AMIS to the UNAMID logistics supply system, and was further hampered by ageing equipment inherited from AMIS.  Until the process of AMID asset liquidation was completed, communication equipment and vehicles transferred from AMIS could not be processed for United Nations registration, licensing and maintenance.  As a result, many of the computers, radios and vehicles used by former AMIS military and police personnel were incompatible with United Nations networks and standards.  Given the implications for the effectiveness of the force’s command and control, as well as for its morale, the United Nations was working with the AMIS liquidation team to complete that work as soon as possible.

At the same time, he continued, if UNAMID was to be reconfigured into a robust, credible and proactive peacekeeping presence, efforts must be redoubled to work with troop-and police-contributing countries to address the practical challenges facing the Mission, such as gaps in force composition and the readiness of incoming troops.

“But UNAMID cannot be a substitute for political engagement,” he warned, adding that it was one element of an international strategy.  When fully deployed, the Mission would address a broad range of responsibilities; protection of civilians, foremost among them.  But, it would not be a tool for addressing the causes of the conflict.  The vitality of the political process was critical to real, lasting progress.

According to Special Envoys Eliasson and Salim, the situation on the political front was “not promising”, with the movements having made little progress in terms of unifying their positions and agreeing on a negotiation team.  There was little prospect for beginning substantive negotiations with the parties “any time soon”.  In particular, the two most significant political and military factions, JEM-Khalil Ibrahim and the SLA-Abdul Wahid remained outside the process.  In addition to the Government’s clear commitment to a military solution, there was also disagreement between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the National Congress Party (NCP) on the Darfur question.  Lack of a clear Darfur strategy in the Government of National Unity, including the role of Minni Minnawi, leader of the largest of the SLA factions, did not indicate seriousness about making peace.

He said the United Nations and African Union Special Envoys were convening informal consultations with regional and international partners in Geneva on 17 and 18 March to take stock of the situation and hopefully reach an understanding on the way forward.  Meanwhile, the continued hostilities in Darfur served as a stark reminder that urgent international engagement and concrete action was necessary to encourage and pressure the parties to the conflict to lay down their weapons and commit to the path of dialogue.

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