|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6397th Meeting (AM)
Security Council Members Return from Week-Long Mission to Sudan, Uganda Convinced
of Urgency of Challenges, United in Support of Timely Referendum in South Sudan
The Security Council must remain united in its support for the timely holding of the referendum in South Sudan and ensure compliance with all agreements concerning the region, leaders of the Security Council’s 4 to 10 October mission to Sudan and Uganda affirmed in a public briefing in the Council Chamber today.
Susan Rice of the United States underlined the importance of the steadfast support of the international community to the implementation of the entire Comprehensive Peace Agreement in South Sudan, in the meeting that also heard from Ruhakana Rugunda of Uganda, President of the Council for October, who had led the portion of the mission to Kampala, his country’s capital, and Mark Lyall Grant of the United Kingdom, who had led the Sudan leg, together with Ambassador Rice.
When the Council mission arrived in Juba, capital of South Sudan, Ambassador Rice said, it had been met by crowds lining the streets, “gripped with fever” over the referendum, which was scheduled for 9 January 2011 and which would determine the political status of the South. Enthusiasm was balanced with trepidation that the North might be preparing for war, she added.
For that reason, she said, officials of the Juba Government had expressed the desire for a buffer zone and expressed concerns about the slowness of negotiations over outstanding issues. The officials had assured the Council that if the referendum was delayed they would not declare unilateral independence, but would hold their own referendum, to include the southern diaspora, as well as current residents.
In a later meeting with civil society and religious officials, the mission members had heard more concerns over meeting the tight timetable for the referendum, especially as regarded arrangements in the contended Abyei area, and more concerns that the north was “beating the drums of war”, Ms. Rice reported. Meeting afterwards with some 5,400 new recruits for the South Sudan security force, Council members had heard trainees say they had joined for freedom and to make their country secure.
A visit outside of Juba was unfortunately cancelled, however, because of technical difficulties with the United Nations aircraft, she said, but that had afforded time for a visit with the Russian helicopter contingent and staff of the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) in the afternoon, who had said that the increased presence of UNMIS at the provincial and country levels during and after the referendum period could mitigate the risk of violence.
Ambassador Lyall Grant, reporting on the Council members’ visit to Darfur where they met with Ibrahim Gambari and senior staff of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), said they had pointed to a lack of access to some areas in the Operation’s work to protect civilians because of restrictions and continued clashes. While the Council mission was at UNAMID headquarters, they had received the news of the kidnapping of a UNAMID staff member in Al Fasher.
Later in a visit to a camp for internally displaced persons, the Council members had heard more serious concerns about restrictions on UNAMID and attacks on civilians and peacekeepers. In a meeting with Government officials, Council members had urged support for UNAMID and development in Darfur, and had expressed concern over the upsurge in violence there; they had urged all parties to join in the peace process and ensure progress.
Visiting another camp for internally displaced persons near Al Fasher, he said, Council Members had been able to talk with individuals and learn more about “the realities of displacement”. People with whom they had spoken said concern over security had kept them from returning home; they had talked of gender-based violence. To all the officials they had met in Darfur, the Council members had expressed their concerns over the plight of civilians and restrictions on UNAMID, as well as the need for all parties to immediately cease hostilities and for all rebel groups to immediately join negotiations.
In Khartoum, he said, the mission had met with Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Taha, as well as with the country’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti who had confirmed the Government’s recognition of the need for the referendum in the South to be held on time, in accordance with provisions of the peace accord. Council members had welcomed those commitments and affirmed the need for outstanding issues to be settled. Vice-President Taha said that the resolution of outstanding issues was urgent, but a precondition to holding the referendum on time. Government officials had also said that that the registration process was due to start on 14 November.
While in Khartoum, Council members had also met with southerners living in the north and had heard their concerns about the referendum process, after which they had met with the Governor of Blue Nile State and the Deputy Governor of South Kordofan State, who had agreed that it was important, but challenging, to conclude all agreements before the referendum. Regarding Darfur, the Government officials had affirmed their commitment to pursuing peace and the need for all rebel groups to join the peace process. Council members had reiterated their concerns about restrictions on UNAMID and the need for urgent progress in the peace process.
He said that the Council mission had returned to New York convinced of the urgency of the challenges in Sudan and of the need for political will to overcome them, while noting the commitment of the Government to hold the referendum in the South and to come to post-referendum agreements. The Council would continue to follow the issue closely over the coming months.
Speaking on the Kampala visit, in his national capacity, Ambassador Rugunda said that the mission’s purpose there had been to reiterate Council support for improved relations among countries in the region, as well as for action against armed groups there, including the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Support for the Sudanese peace processes, as well as for the Djibouti Peace Process and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), had also been reiterated, and Council members had recognized the important contribution by the regional service centre in Entebbe to the work of United Nations missions in the region.
During a visit to the service centre in Entebbe, the Council had been told that, since the centre’s establishment in 2003, services to United Nations Missions had steadily increased. In addition to the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), the base supported UNAMID, the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINURCA) and United Nations agencies. The aim of the centre was to deliver services faster in support of missions, to improve quality of the services, and to increase efficiency and effective use of resources. Services included aircraft handling, receipt and inspection services and provision of training capabilities.
The Council had also met with the country’s President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who had affirmed the importance of full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and of a free, transparent and timely referendum in the Sudan. Any attempt to disrupt the referendum, he had warned, was a recipe for renewed conflict. As one of the Guarantors, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) had a critical role to play, he had said. He had also expressed confidence that stability in Somalia was achievable if the international community supported the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), through provision of financial resources and equipment and other means.
President Museveni had also stressed the importance of strengthening cooperation between the United Nations, the African Union and subregional organizations, Ambassador Lyall Grant said. The President predicted to Council members that the Lord’s Resistance Army would not be a long-term problem, since countries in the region were now working together to address it.
The meeting began at 10:17 a.m. and ended at 10:47 a.m.
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