PROGRESS IN DARFUR ‘MUCH TOO SLOW’ IN PROVIDING REAL BENEFITS TO ORDINARY CITIZENS, TOP UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPING OFFICIAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

19 December 2008
SC/9550

PROGRESS IN DARFUR ‘MUCH TOO SLOW’ IN PROVIDING REAL BENEFITS TO ORDINARY CITIZENS, TOP UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPING OFFICIAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

19 December 2008
Security Council
SC/9550
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6054th Meeting (AM)

PROGRESS IN DARFUR ‘MUCH TOO SLOW’ IN PROVIDING REAL BENEFITS TO ORDINARY

CITIZENS, TOP UNITED NATIONS PEACEKEEPING OFFICIAL TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL

Amid ‘Volatile’ Security Environment, Full Deployment of United Nations-

African Union Mission in Darfur Remains ‘Top Priority’, Says Field Support Chief

Almost a year since the transfer of authority from the African Union Mission in the Sudan to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy, addressing the Security Council today, regretted that, while some progress had been made, it had been “much too slow in providing real improvements for the ordinary citizens on the ground and inadequate in resolving the Darfur crisis”.

As the conflict entered its sixth year, millions of Darfurians continued to live in camps for internally displaced persons, dependent on the life-saving assistance of the humanitarian effort, he said.  The security situation remained “volatile and unpredictable”, and attacks on peacekeepers and humanitarian workers, as well as inter-tribal violence and clashes between the Government and the armed movements, had intensified.  In the first year of its operation, UNAMID had lost 21 personnel.  Inter-tribal fighting had also claimed many lives, he added.

Despite the Sudanese Government’s unilateral declaration of a ceasefire on 12 November, aerial bombardments, as well as clashes between Government forces and armed rebel movements had continued, he said.  And the violence between the parties had not been limited to aerial bombardments.  The rebel movements had also had a lot to answer for.  It was amid that continued violence and in that complex operating environment that UNAMID had been trying to implement its mandate, even as it continued to deploy. 

He said he would continue to work with Member States to fill key gaps in the Mission’s force composition.  As Council members knew, for more than one year, pledges had been requested for a multi-role logistics unit, a medium-transport unit, a heavy transport unit, an aerial reconnaissance unit, light tactical helicopters and 18 medium-utility helicopters.  Pledges for those resources had been, and still were, outstanding.  He reiterated his appeal to Council members to urge troop and police contributing countries in a position to provide those capabilities to do so without further delay.

As had been emphasized many times before, even when fully deployed and with its full capabilities, UNAMID could not, by itself, bring peace to Darfur, he said.  Only a sustainable political settlement between the parties would end the conflict.  It was, therefore, deeply regrettable that another year had passed while the parties continued to engage in military action rather than investing themselves fully in political negotiations.  A year ago, his predecessor had cautioned that the longer the issues went unresolved, the greater the risk that UNAMID would fail to implement its mandate.  It was his hope now that, in one year’s time, he could join the Council in this Chamber with better news.

Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Susana Malcorra, assuring the Council that her team’s top priority remained the full deployment of UNAMID and the pursuit of peace in Darfur, said that, with a little less than two weeks to go until the end of the year, the target of 60 per cent deployment of UNAMID’s uniformed personnel by that point was in reach, as a result of the accelerated movement of equipment, enhanced engineering capability and improved cooperation with the Government of the Sudan. 

Nevertheless, she said, the gains were being made in a volatile security environment, making it necessary to designate Darfur as a “phase four” security zone.  Thus, there was work to be done to ensure that the Mission was able to function even if the situation deteriorated further, while taking measures to ensure the safety of personnel.  In addition, the elevated security phase had forced the delay of the deployment of approximately 200 armed United Nations police officers to Darfur until a minimum number of armed formed police units were in place.  She explained that, if the 60 per cent target was missed by a percentage or two, it would be because of that delay.

As the New Year approached, the Sudan looked forward to putting an end to the conflict in Darfur as soon as possible, its representative said today.  His Government had fulfilled all of its obligations regarding cooperation with, and facilitation of, UNAMID’s deployment in Darfur.  The Sudan had also agreed to establish an office with the hybrid Mission, headed by a high-level Sudanese official.  There was also no impediment to the deployment of light tactical helicopters.  Taken together, there was no basis for further suggestions that the Government of the Sudan was complicating the operation; his Government was fully committed to full cooperation with the United Nations, with a view to having 60 per cent of UNAMID operational by the end of this year, and 80 per cent by March 2009.

He also assured the Council that his country was fully committed to the unilateral ceasefire declared by his President.  However, some gangs and bandits had attacked some police units as soon as the ceasefire was announced.  He hoped the Council would play its role in pressuring those groups to accept the ceasefire.  The Council should also heed the call of its partners in Darfur –- the African Union and others –- to prevent “irresponsible adventures”, such as those by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.  He reiterated his country’s cooperation with the Council, adding his hope that, for history’s sake, it would side with peace and stability in the Sudan and be persuaded to make 2009 a year for peace and stability in the entire region.

The meeting began at 10:29 a.m. and adjourned at 11:05 a.m.

Briefing Summaries

ALAIN LE ROY, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said it had been almost a year since the transfer of authority from the African Union Mission in the Sudan to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  That milestone had provided an opportunity for reflection on efforts made to resolve the conflict in Darfur.  While some progress had been made in various areas over the past year, it had been “much too slow in providing real improvements for the ordinary citizens on the ground and inadequate in resolving the Darfur crisis”.

He said that, as the conflict entered its sixth year, millions continued to live in camps for internally displaced persons, dependent on the life-saving assistance of the humanitarian effort.  The situation had not improved.  Over the past six months alone, an additional 100,000 people had been displaced.  As Council members heard recently from Under-Secretary-General John Holmes, the humanitarian community continued to struggle with issues of security and humanitarian access, with the hope that the situation would improve over the coming year. 

It was of grave concern that, year after year, the security situation remained volatile and unpredictable, he said, and the past two months had been no exception.  Attacks on peacekeepers and humanitarian workers, as well as inter-tribal violence and clashes between the Government and the armed movements, had intensified.  In the first year of its operation, UNAMID lost 21 personnel.  Most recently, on 29 October, a peacekeeper had been killed and another had been injured after being attacked while guarding a water point near the Kassab camp in North Darfur.  Again, on 9 November, a peacekeeper had been injured during an ambush of a UNAMID convoy travelling on the El Geneina road.

He said that, over the past year, inter-tribal fighting had also claimed many lives.  In October alone, seven separate armed tribal clashes had reportedly taken place, killing at least 41 men and 3 children, and injuring many more.  Seven women had reportedly been raped during the clashes, much cultivated land had been burned and livestock looted.  Just last week, in two separate incidents, tribal clashes in South Darfur had claimed another 75 lives, including of Government and Sudan police, who had tried to intervene.

Despite the Sudanese Government’s unilateral declaration of a ceasefire on 12 November, aerial bombardments as well as clashes between the Government and the armed rebel movements had continued, he reported.  In particular, from 12 to 25 November, UNAMID had received unconfirmed information about significant military incidents in seven locations across the three Darfur states.  Five of those reports had been related to alleged aerial bombardment by Government forces.

He said that UNAMID had deployed patrols to verify those reports.  In South Darfur, UNAMID had found visible evidence of air strikes, including four bombing craters and unexploded ordnance near the village of Abu Dongal.  UNAMID had dispatched another verification patrol to Abdel Shakur ( North Darfur), but had been stopped at Government checkpoints on two occasions and not allowed to proceed to the site.  On 13 December, a UNAMID patrol had eventually been allowed access to the area and observed six craters left from aerial bombardments in the village of Korbiya, 90 kilometres north-west of Kutum.

The Government of the Sudan had stated that the bombings in Abdel Shakur had been necessary to clear the road of bandits so convoys from the Sudanese Armed Forces could pass safely, he said.  However, the United Nations had emphasized to the Government that such aerial bombardments could not be justified on that basis and that the Government should honour its commitment to the cessation of hostilities.

He said that the violence between the parties had not been limited to aerial bombardments.  The rebel movements had also had a lot to answer for.  In November, Government authorities had been targeted by armed groups and had suffered casualties in South Darfur.  Clashes between Government forces and SLA-Abdul Wahid had also taken place for several days in November near Kutum.

It was amid that continued violence and in that complex operating environment that UNAMID had been trying to implement its mandate, even as it continued to deploy, he said.  Over the past year, the frequency of the Mission’s patrols had increased, in order to facilitate humanitarian access and provide convoy protection, but also as a confidence-building measure and to investigate security incidents.  The “24/7” presence of UNAMID police in Kalma camp had been welcomed by residents of the camp and had strengthened the relationship between UNAMID, the humanitarian community and the internally displaced.  Several requests had been made for UNAMID to replicate that initiative in other camps, but limited resources -– especially the absence of more Formed Police Units –- continued to hold back the Mission.

As UNAMID’s members and capabilities increased, it would be able to do much more good work, he said.  It would need continued Government cooperation and sustained international support.  In that context, he would continue to work with Member States to fill key gaps in the Mission’s force composition.  As Council members knew, for more than one year, pledges had been requested for a multi-role logistics unit, a medium-transport unit, a heavy transport unit, an aerial reconnaissance unit, light tactical helicopters and 18 medium-utility helicopters.  Pledges for those resources had been, and still were, outstanding.  He reiterated his appeal to Council members to urge troop and police contributing countries in a position to provide those capabilities to do so without further delay.

He said that deploying UNAMID to its authorized strength, as it endeavoured to undertake its mandated activities, had been, and remained, the priority.  Recent cooperation with the Government of the Sudan on the facilitation of UNAMID’s deployment had gone a long way in complementing the efforts.  Under-Secretary-General Malcorra would provide additional details on that.

As had been emphasized many times before, even when fully deployed and with its full capabilities, UNAMID could not, by itself, bring peace to Darfur, he said.  Only a sustainable political settlement between the parties would end the conflict.  It was, therefore, deeply regrettable that another year had passed while the parties continued to engage in military action rather than investing themselves fully in political negotiations. 

He said that the multi-party Sudanese People’s Forum, launched in October, had not taken a step in the right direction.  Progress had been made in discussing, at the national level, the issues of most concern to the Darfurians, namely, disarmament of militias, compensation, Darfur as a region, political representation and socio-economic development.  The Government had pledged that the recommendations of the Sudan People’s Forum would serve as a basis of discussion for direct dialogue with the armed movements and towards a final political settlement.  For the Sudan People’s Forum to make a difference, it was critical that quick action be taken to implement its recommendations.  Violations of the ceasefire declared unilaterally by President Omar Al-Bashir at the conclusion of the Forum had not helped promote a climate of trust between the parties.

Joint Chief Mediator Djibrill Bassole had been working closely with the parties over the past several months, urging them to cease hostilities, take steps to demonstrate their seriousness towards a settlement and engage in meaningful dialogue about the future of Darfur, he noted.  Mr. Bassole continued to work with the Government and movements in an effort to adopt a framework agreement that included a cessation of hostilities and defined the modalities and specific topics for direct negotiations.

With the help of the Government of Qatar and other stakeholders, there had been some progress this past month in beginning those discussions in Doha, he continued.  Many issues were still outstanding and Mr. Bassole had been engaged intensively to bring the parties closer together.  During his interaction with the armed movements, he had been urging the groups to resolve the question of their participation and representation at future peace talks.  The rebels should be called upon to conclude those issues rapidly.  They had a sober obligation to do all they could to allow meaningful talks to begin.

He noted that the 14 July application by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for an arrest warrant against President Al-Bashir might also have an impact on peace and security in Darfur.  Mixed signals had been received from the Government on that issue.  On the one hand, there had been reassurances that there would be no impact on UNAMID and the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) if the Court agreed to the Prosecutor’s request for an arrest warrant for the President.  However, some public statements made by Government officials had contradicted that position.  The peacekeeping missions, humanitarian and development work in the Sudan would continue to conduct their operations impartially, cooperating in good faith with all partners to further the goal of peace and stability in the country.  He trusted that the Government would continue to fulfil its commitments towards peace in Darfur and cooperation with United Nations efforts.

Meanwhile, priorities from the United Nations perspective were clear, he stressed.  The violence must stop; the parties must commit to dialogue and the African Union-United Nations mediation effort must receive all required support.  On the peacekeeping side, efforts must be redoubled with troop contributing countries to accelerate deployment, and most of the already-deployed UNAMID units must focus on protection of civilians and facilitation of humanitarian assistance. 

At the same time, the fundamental responsibility for making real progress lay with the parties.  It was the Government and armed rebel movements that must cease hostilities and agree to dialogue under the Chief Mediator’s auspices.  It was the Government that must take concrete actions to demonstrate its seriousness with respect to the outcomes of the Sudan People’s Forum and the associated ceasefire.  And, it was critical for regional stability and lasting peace in Darfur that the Governments of Chad and the Sudan implement the Dakar Agreement.

He said that, a year ago, his predecessor had cautioned that the longer those issues went unresolved, the greater the risk that UNAMID would fail to implement the mandate given to it by the Council.  It was his hope now that, in one year’s time, he could join the Council in this Chamber with better news.

SUSANA MALCORRA, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, said she was pleased to inform the Council that, with a little less than two weeks to go until the end of the year, the target of 60 per cent deployment of UNAMID’s uniformed personal by that point was in reach, as a result of the accelerated movement of equipment, enhanced engineering capability and improved cooperation with the Government of the Sudan.  While acknowledging there was still a long way to go, she thanked troop and police contributing countries for their tireless efforts. 

She stressed, nevertheless, that the gains were being made in a volatile security environment, making it necessary to designate Darfur as a “phase four” security zone, meaning that there was work to be done to ensure that the Mission was able to function even if the situation deteriorated further, while taking measures to ensure the safety of personnel.  In addition, the elevated security phase had forced the delay of the deployment of approximately 200 armed United Nations police officers to Darfur until a minimum number of armed formed police units were in place.  She explained that, if the 60 per cent target was missed by a percentage point or two, it would be because of that delay.

The challenges of reaching the next target of 80 per cent deployment by the end of March 2009 were well known, she said, while assuring the Council that her team would build on its efforts and strengthen further measures to move equipment and prepare sites more effectively.  She pledged to continue to be transparent on progress.  In that regard, she said the readiness of troop and police contributing countries would be an important factor; it was critical that they undertook the range of pre-deployment preparations as rapidly as possible.  She had stressed that point to them in a meeting two days ago.  Because of the demanding environment, she had also emphasized that they be meticulous in their preparations to ensure the units were ready for the enormous challenges.

In conclusion, she said that her team’s top priority continued to be the full deployment of UNAMID and the pursuit of peace in Darfur.  In that regard, she looked forward to the continued cooperation of the Government of the Sudan, the sustained support of the Council and the continued collaboration with troop and police contributing countries.

Statement

ABDALMAHMOOD ABDALHALEEM MOHAMAD (Sudan) said that, as the new year approached, the Sudan looked forward to putting an end to the conflict in Darfur as soon as possible, especially since there was a comprehensive national plan –- the outcome of the Sudan People’s Forum.  That outcome was indeed a translation of the Sudanese position from all political parties and the basis for regional efforts under the Arab-African initiative led by Qatar.  It was also in line with the mandate of Mr. Bassole to urgently restore peace. 

The armed groups, however, were rejecting the peace option, he added.  Meanwhile, however, normalization of relations with Chad was moving forward.  Needless to say, the Security Council was expected to support those efforts and to act promptly and seriously with respect to the leaders of the armed groups.  He hoped the Council would invite Mr. Bassole to New York in the near future to review recent developments and to learn of his future intentions. 

He said his Government had fulfilled all of its obligations regarding cooperation with, and facilitation of, UNAMID’s deployment in Darfur.  The Council had been briefed during a previous meeting, and again today, on that point.  The Sudan had also agreed to establish an office with the hybrid Mission, headed by a high-level Sudanese official, and which would include all Government institutions to guarantee the flow and speed of all procedures.

There was also no impediment to the deployment of light tactical helicopters.  Taken together, there was no basis for further suggestions that the Government of the Sudan was complicating the operation; his Government was fully committed to full cooperation with the United Nations, with a view to having 60 per cent of UNAMID operational by the end of this year, and 80 per cent by March 2009.

He also assured the Council that the Sudan was fully committed to the unilateral ceasefire declared by his President.  However, some gangs and bandits had attacked some police units as soon as the ceasefire was announced.  He hoped the Council would play its role in pressuring those groups to accept the ceasefire. 

Regarding the humanitarian aspects of the situation, he thanked Under-Secretary-General John Holmes for his briefing of 3 December, which had highlighted that armed groups in Darfur had started targeting humanitarian convoys.  The Government of the Sudan had appreciated the Secretary-General’s report to the Council, and that body’s endorsement of the Government’s very recent declaration to allow full facilitation of the provision of humanitarian assistance. 

His Government’s full cooperation must be welcomed by the Council, which should keep the peace process safe from any threats or “irresponsible adventures”, such as those by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.  The Council had heard the calls by the African Union and other principal partners of the United Nations in Darfur, as well as other regional and international organizations, that peace should be spared such “adventures”.  He reiterated his country’s cooperation with the Council, adding his hope that, for history’s sake, it would side with peace and stability in the Sudan and be persuaded to make 2009 a year for peace and stability in the entire region.

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