|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6519th Meeting (PM)
Assistant Secretary-General, Briefing Security Council, Stresses Need to Focus
on Resolving Outstanding Issues at ‘All Darfur Stakeholders Conference’
Sudan’s Delegate Questions Silence over Rebel Leaders’ Rejection of Peace
With the Darfur peace process moving forward on two fronts — two-year-old negotiations in Doha, Qatar, and newly-launched broad-based political talks under way in Sudan — a senior peacekeeping official told the Security Council today that all efforts should be focused on reaching agreement through the upcoming “All Darfur Stakeholders Conference”, which would be an ideal venue for comprehensively addressing outstanding issues.
Briefing the Council on the latest developments in the troubled western region of Sudan and on the work of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), Atul Khare, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations said the launch of the Darfur-based political process was envisaged as a means of furthering popular support for implementation of the outcome of the Doha negotiations.
“While there remain different views on the sequencing of the [Darfur-based political process] and peace negotiations, we continue to believe it is crucial” to reach agreement through the Stakeholders’ Conference, with a view to making the Darfur political process a forum for discussion, local-level buy-in and enhancing aspects of the agreement important to local communities.
He said the peace process had entered a “crucial phase”, with the three signatory parties to the framework agreements — the Government, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) — present and fully engaged in the Doha negotiations. On 24 February, the Mediation had presented the three parties with six proposed texts covering wealth-sharing, power-sharing, the return of and compensation for refugees and internally displaced persons, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and security arrangements. With the Mediation intending to submit, by 27 April, a draft comprehensive agreement for the parties’ final consideration, the Mediation had, on 18 April, requested the Government, the JEM and the LJM to continue working together to submit all final comments on the six draft chapters of such an agreement thus far provided. A seventh chapter on implementation mechanisms would be provided in the coming days.
Mr. Khare pointed out that the positions of the Government and the LJM on the texts were “nearly reconcilable”, but the JEM had made a number of fundamental comments and suggestions. Welcoming the international community’s full support for the Mediation, including interventions with the parties, he called on it to send a clear message telling the JEM that it must engage fully on the basis of the drafts provided and reach a comprehensive agreement in the required time frame. Minni Minawi, on the other hand, had disassociated himself from the peace agreement and continued to engage in hostilities, while Abdul Wahid also remained outside the process. The full support of the international community was needed in those cases as well, he said.
Given the difficulties, he continued, the Mediation had moved up the All Darfur Stakeholders Conference to 18-23 May, bringing together the Government, the armed movements, civil society, Sudanese political parties and others to seek a consensus on the provisions of the proposed agreement. The Conference would also gather the Mediation’s international partners to provide support, he said, adding that UNAMID and the Mediation were working together on the selection and transportation of participants, as the mission followed up on those issues with the Government.
As emphasized by the African Union Peace and Security Council, Mr. Khare said, the Darfur political process must take place in an environment that would guarantee its credibility through proportional representation and by ensuring the civil and political rights of participants in such a manner that they would be able to express themselves and assemble freely. Those conditions should include freedom from harassment, arbitrary arrest, intimidation and interference by the Government or armed movements, the Joint Special Representative and Special Envoys had further stressed.
He went on to say that the Government’s intention to lift the emergency law would go a long way towards fulfilling those conditions, as would its recent recommitment to working with UNAMID and the African Union towards the creation of an enabling environment. Further work was needed in that regard to monitor the situation on the ground and ensure that the rights of participants were protected. Should the current road map towards a comprehensive peace need to be revisited after the All Darfur Stakeholder’s Conference, the Secretary-General would review the situation with African Union Chairperson Jean Ping and other stakeholders, and provide the appropriate recommendations to the Security Council.
Turning to other matters under UNAMID’s remit, he said that following clashes between Sudanese Government forces and armed movements in January and February, hostilities had ebbed in March. While the situation had remained relatively quiet, there was nevertheless reason for concern, particularly in North and South Darfur. On 8 April, JEM, SLA-Minni Minawi and SLA-Abdul Wahid commanders had issued a joint statement claiming that they had been attacked by Government forces in Muzbat, North Darfur. On 13 April, a UNAMID patrol sent to verify the report had been stopped at Turba by unidentified armed men and prevented from proceeding. The commander had identified the men as belonging to a JEM/SLA-Minni Minawi coalition that had returned to reclaim the area from Government forces. He had alleged that coalition forces were in control of Farawiya, Muzbat and Gurbura.
On 14 April, he recalled, a UNAMID verification patrol sent to Farawiya had been was informed by locals that no movement of armed groups had been observed in the area, but there had been overflights by Government forces. It was UNAMID’s assessment, on the basis of current information, that the areas around Umm Bara remained under Government control, he said. UNAMID had also received reports of a Government military build-up in north-western North Darfur, adding that the Government had indicated that it was acting in response to the instability in Libya, concerns about the proliferation of arms in the area, and the likelihood of cross-border rebel movements.
Regarding the security of UNAMID and humanitarian personnel, he noted that a patrol from the mission had been ambushed on 5 April by armed elements from Kutum in North Darfur. A UNAMID police adviser from Sierra Leone had been killed, and one of the attackers had been killed in the subsequent fire fight. The Government had apprehended one suspect and the mission was working with the authorities to ensure a full investigation as well as accountability and justice regarding the matter.
The Assistant Secretary-General went on to describe other events, including an 11 April incident in which a group suspected of belonging to the National Intelligence and Security Service had entered the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons and taken away a resident who was a national staff member of the non-governmental organization International Medical Corps. In response, internally displaced youths had held hostage another International Medical Corps worker, seven staff of the national non-governmental organization Jebel Marra, and four national employees of the American Refugee Council.
On 13 April, the 12 aid workers had been released unharmed following the timely intervention of UNAMID and the humanitarian country team, he continued, adding that humanitarian activities had subsequently been partially restarted by groups working in Kalma camp. The location of the camp resident whose capture had sparked the incident remained unknown, he said, pointing out that the National Intelligence and Security Service in South Darfur had denied any involvement in the incident. It had been 98 days since the three crew members of the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service had been abducted in Umm Shalaya, West Darfur, and the United Nations continued to work with the Government to secure their safe release.
During a visit to Nyala on 18 April, he said, Ibrahim Gambari, Joint African Union-United Nations Representative, had assured humanitarian workers that UNAMID would make every effort to facilitate their earliest return to the camp. And earlier today, following negotiations undertaken by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNAMID and non-governmental organizations responsible for delivering humanitarian assistance to Kalma camp had agreed with local sheikhs and the youth group responsible for the hostage-taking that full services would resume, he said, adding that clinics in the camp remained open and food distribution for the month of April had wrapped up today.
As noted in the Secretary-General report, the clashes in January and February had led to population displacements in some areas of North and South Darfur, he said, adding that the Government was contesting the numbers contained in the report, believing they were inflated. However, the figures covered primary, secondary and temporary displacement, and a joint working group comprising representatives of the Government, the United Nations and humanitarian partners had been set up to review the calculation of new displacements, agree on a common figure and review the response to the most pressing humanitarian needs.
As for access, he noted that between 1 January and 31 March, UNAMID had conducted 10,619 patrols, of which 18 had been impeded by the Government and one by the SLA-Abdul Wahid faction. Between 1 and 16 April, it had conducted 2,542 patrols and faced 10 movement restrictions. In nine of those stoppages, Government forces and operatives of the National Intelligence and Security Services had prevented the patrols from reaching Kutum and Tabit in North Darfur; Kalma, Abu Martiq, Kass, Beliel and El Daein in South Darfur; and Tine in West Darfur. Throughout, the authorities had cited either lack of prior notification or ongoing military activities, he said, recalling that on one occasion, armed elements had prevented the patrol from proceeding.
In a positive development, however, he said that in the wake of close follow-up with national authorities, UNAMID had gained increased access to Jebel Marra, with four patrols and assessment missions as well as more than 500 kilograms of relief aid reaching the area in March. He added that in a recent meeting between Joint Special Representative Gambari and the SLA-Abdul Wahid leadership, it had been agreed that the rebel group would facilitate humanitarian aid delivery. The establishment of a UNAMID team site in Jebel Marra had also been discussed. In addition, multiple missions to Jebel Marra were scheduled to take place between 27 April and 11 May, during which UNAMID and United Nations agencies planned to deliver medical supplies and pursue with rebel commanders arrangements to ensure greater humanitarian access and the establishment of an ongoing UNAMID presence in the area.
On the matter of visas, he said that following a working-level meeting in Khartoum on 31 March, the Government had indicated that it was in the process of approving 600 of the 1,261 outstanding requests, and was prepared to review the remaining requests. Since that time, some 306 visas had been issued, almost half of them for military personnel, he said, noting that as of today, the number of pending visas stood at 1,117.
“While there are a number of difficulties and challenges on the ground, UNAMID and the Government continue to consult closely on all issues of concern to peace and stability in the region,” Mr. Khare said, adding that the Joint Special Representative had discussed with the Government its intention to hold a referendum. It had indicated that should an agreement be reached through the Doha negotiations, it would supersede the Doha Peace Agreement, under which it was proceeding with the holding of the referendum. Mr. Gambari would continue to consult closely on those issues.
Following that briefing, Sudan’s representative said the progress cited in the Secretary-General’s report should be welcomed as it would allow the voices of the “silent majority” finally to be heard as negotiations on a comprehensive peace were concluded. The Government would continue with its “strenuous efforts” to reach such a conclusion, in addition to ensuring the requisite enabling environment for ongoing talks. To that end, the Government was lifting the state of emergency and guaranteeing freedom of expression, he said, adding that it would continue its contacts and dialogue with all parties, including those that had signed the Abuja Declaration, UNAMID and the Panel of the Wise. The Government was undertaking every effort to resolve the issue of administrative status in an impartial manner.
As the report made clear, violence and tensions between tribes continued to be the main source of instability in the region, he emphasized. The activities of armed groups exacerbated those tensions, hampering Government efforts to shoulder its responsibilities, including the extension of security throughout the area and ensuring the delivery of humanitarian goods. The Government had nevertheless created a high-level committee comprising Government officials, UNAMID and civil society groups working in Darfur to oversee delivery.
He said that 92 per cent of UNAMID’s military force had now been deployed, reflecting the Government’s seriousness in its commitment to cooperate with the United Nations. However, some visas might be delayed due to “routine procedures”, he said, noting that others had been held up because they had been submitted through numerous channels, rather than through UNAMID. However, that should not detract from the real progress made in all aspects of UNAMID’s operations and performance, he said. “I wish to assure you, we will grant visas to all requests made.”
The Government was pursuing the internal Darfur dialogue in coordination with the Joint Mediation process in Doha, he said, calling upon the Council not to let the success of the peace process “hinge on the whims of rebel leadership”, which had publicly rejected its appeals, and those of the wider international community, for cooperation. Expressing hope that the Council would call on the rebel leaders to join the negotiations, he asked how long it would remain quiet about their persistent rejection of peace, given that a just and comprehensive peace was “the only way” for the people of Darfur.
The meeting began at 3:25 p.m. and ended at 4:00 p.m.
The Security Council met this afternoon to consider the latest report of the Secretary-General on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (document S/20011/244), in which he outlines progress on the political front, both in the Doha peace negotiations and in regard to the launch of the Darfur-based political process, emphasizing that for those efforts to be effective in assisting the Government, armed movements and the people of Darfur to reach sustainable peace, they will require the full engagement of the concerned stakeholders and the unified support of the international community.
According to the report, the Secretary-General and Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, fully support the efforts, which are not only complementary but essential to long-term peace and stability. The Government of Sudan remains actively engaged in those complementary processes, the Secretary-General says, adding: “I call on the Government and the movements to show the flexibility necessary to ensure fruitful negotiations in Darfur towards an early comprehensive agreement.”
Yet, concern has been raised about the credibility and impartiality of a Darfur-based political process in view of the situation on the ground and the history of the conflict, the report says. It commends the Government for its recent indication that it will lift the state of emergency in place since 1997. “This is essential for ensuring the political and civil rights necessary for the people of Darfur to freely engage in the Darfur-based political process and to find means to address the issues essential to sustainable peace.”
The Secretary-General says that since his last report, fighting between the Government and armed movements, particularly between the Sudanese Armed Forces and fighters of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA)-Minni Minawi faction and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), has widened to include elements of the SLA-Abdul Wahid faction and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM). The clashes undermine the peace negotiations and the Darfur-based political process, posing humanitarian challenges. Offensive military operations — whether conducted by Government or movement forces — undermine the population’s trust and confidence in those conducting them and undermine efforts to promote early recovery and voluntary return, the Secretary-General notes. “I call again upon the Government and all armed movements to cease hostilities and enter into ceasefire negotiations immediately.”
According to the report, the relatively few recent instances of inter-communal fighting are due in part to Government efforts to promote inter-tribal reconciliation, to constructive community actions, and to the support provided by the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) to traditional, community-level conflict-resolution mechanisms. The Secretary-General encourages the Government to continue its efforts to reduce inter-tribal conflict, including by implementing early-recovery and development projects to reduce resource-based inter-communal conflict. He also encourages the Government urgently to begin disbursing $1.9 billion in development assistance that it committed to Darfur in 2010. “The implementation of visible, appropriate and conflict-sensitive development projects that benefit communities in Darfur can help to restore trust and confidence in the Government, thereby enhancing prospects for peace, stability, recovery and the return of internally displaced persons and refugees.”
At the same time, the Secretary-General remains “deeply concerned” about the risks that the security situation continues to pose for the work of United Nations and other personnel. While thanking the Government for its efforts to secure the release of a civilian UNAMID staff member abducted in El Fasher last October, he condemns “in the strongest possible terms” those responsible for kidnapping three aviation staff contracted to the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, who remain in captivity. The Secretariat is working closely with the Government to secure their safe release and bring those responsible to justice while ensuring that such incidents are not repeated.
The Secretary-General also welcomes the reduction in restrictions on movement that is a result of UNAMID adopting a more robust posture, as well as the improved access to Jebel Marra, but he remains concerned about the frequency with which belligerent parties seek to restrict the mission’s operations and those of humanitarian agencies. Most restrictions have been imposed when UNAMID has endeavoured to gain access to areas of ongoing or recently concluded fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and movement fighters.
The Secretary-General expresses deep concern about the considerable delays in issuing visas to UNAMID personnel, which adversely affect recruitment and threaten to hamper the mission’s operations. “This is in violation of the status-of-forces agreement,” he stresses. “While UNAMID and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations continue to work on deploying additional personnel with local-language skills, I call upon the Government to immediately process the backlog of visas so that the mission is able to carry out its mandated tasks.”
Finally, the Secretary-General says the next several months will be a crucial period for the future of Darfur and Sudan, emphasizing that with the end of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement interim period approaching, positive engagement in constructive dialogue by the Government, movements and all stakeholders will be more important than ever. The international community, for its part, must maintain its unified and constructive engagement with all stakeholders by helping them take the difficult decisions necessary to abandon military options and work actively towards a sustainable and peaceful resolution of the conflict. “All must do their part to end the suffering of those most affected by war and to create the conditions for them to return to their homes and live free and productive lives,” he stresses.
* *** *