|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY head of joint African Union-United Nations darfur operation
The head of the joint African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur told reporters today that, while the mission had reached about two thirds of its mandated strength, and was deployed in every part of the Sudan’s war-torn western region, UNAMID was still hamstrung by ongoing logistical difficulties, particularly the lack of transport helicopters under military command.
“We must not focus only on the number of troops, [but] also on the efficiency of those troops on the ground,” said Rodolphe Adada, who is also Joint African Union-United Nations Special Representative for Darfur. During a press conference that followed his latest briefing to the Security Council on UNAMID’s deployment, he emphasized that the mission would be “almost at full deployment” by the end of the year, so troop contributors must help find a solution to the serious shortage military helicopters, which was currently hampering UNAMID’s mobility.
“This is an issue for troop-contributing countries,” he said, responding to questions on why it appeared UNAMID was having such difficulty lining up helicopters and other critical equipment. By example, he noted the mission had five tactical helicopters from Ethiopia, which had also provided the requisite troops to man them.
To similar questions, he said that, while UNAMID did have helicopters, they were largely civilian aircraft, which “like taxis”, were used only for transportation of people and goods. Military aircraft, however, which could be used in field operations, were crucial to bolstering the UNAMID’s mobility and efficiency.
Turning to the security situation, he said things on the ground in Darfur were much changed since the early days of the six-year conflict in which hundreds of thousands of people were estimated to have been killed and millions forced from their homes since fighting erupted, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.
At the same time, Mr. Adada reported that, since UNAMID had taken over command from the African Union force on 1 January 2008, there had been nearly 2,000 civilian deaths due to violence, or about 130-150 a month, adding: “this is unfortunate […] too many human beings”. He said the mission had also lost 14 peacekeepers. Asked about the impact of the announcement by the International Criminal Court that it was indicting Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir on war crimes charges, he said that issue was “one of the problems”, but the mission had its own mandate to carry out and would stick to it.
On the peace process, he said Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) leader Minni Arkou Minnawi had signed the Darfur Peace Agreement, which had imposed on him some responsibilities in the Sudanese Government. “He doesn’t like it when we say that he is part of the Government, but, in fact, he is the Senior Adviser to the President,” and appeared committed to joining the ongoing negotiations. He added that Mr. Minnawi had visited Darfur with a delegation of President Bashir and it seemed “they are working [together] very well now”. As for the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), he hoped that group would reverse its decision and decide to rejoin month-old peace talks in Doha, Qatar.
He went on to say that the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation (DDDC) set out in the Abuja Agreement, aimed at giving the people of Darfur the opportunity to discuss all issues “as a healing mechanism”, and one of the main tools for ensuring peace. Indeed, the search for peace needed to involve civilians in discussions right alongside armed combatants, he concluded.
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