|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6851st Meeting (PM)
With Violence again Flaring in Darfur, Senior United Nations Peacekeeping Official
Urges Sudanese Government, Armed Groups, to Recommit to Lagging Peace Process
Briefing Security Council, Assistant Secretary-General Mulet
Says Darfur Peace Accord Provides Basis for Easing Tensions, Ending Conflict
With renewed violence in Sudan’s Darfur region, including attacks on peacekeepers, the United Nations’ top peacekeeping official called on the parties to engage fully in implementing the lagging peace process, which he said could ease the high tensions that still existed there, as he briefed the Security Council this afternoon.
“The implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur provides a base for overcoming the many causes of conflict in Darfur, as well as for the promotion of security”, Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said in his briefing on the situation today.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report (see Background), he said that 15 months after the signing of the Document, the signatory parties — the Government of Sudan and the Justice and Liberation Movement, or JLM — were behind schedule in putting in place the necessary elements, and the efforts to gain the participation of non-signatory armed movements had borne few results.
He added that the requests of the Government and JLM for development assistance would be strengthened, as would the quest to include other movements, “if the parties demonstrated their full engagement in the promotion of peace, security and the re-launch of development in Darfur”. That must include lifting restrictions on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), and development and humanitarian agencies.
Noting the progress towards implementing the Doha Document as shown in the report, Mr. Mulet added that since its publication, Aichatou Souleymane Mindaoudou, the Joint Mediator ad interim for the United Nations and the African Union, had facilitated with the Government of Qatar dialogue between the Sudanese Government and ex-members of the Executive Council of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a major rebel group that had been outside the peace process. Negotiations were foreseen in November towards the group’s signing on.
The Joint Mediator ad interim, he said, continued efforts to get more movements to sign on. In addition, the evaluation of development possibilities and needs in Darfur, begun in May, was also ongoing and would be presented at a donor’s conference scheduled for December in Doha.
An agreement, he said, also took place on 15 October on the long-standing dispute between the signatory parties over the results of the initial verification of LJM forces, which was required to begin demobilization of those forces along with their integration into the Sudanese Armed Forces. The parties agreed to undertake a joint desk review of the initial results and to verify forces not included in the initial exercise due to restrictions by the authorities.
Government representatives to the body that met on those issues, the Joint Commission, had agreed to respond by 12 November to the UNAMID Force Commander’s request for information about the Government’s disarmament plan, he said.
On the latest security incidents, Mr. Mulet said that estimates of civilian casualties in the North Darfur town of Hashaba ranged from 27 to 100 after a dispute over land access between nomadic camel herders and farmers had escalated because of attacks by armed groups first on the herders and then on the town area, including gold mines under the control of some of the armed movements. Aerial bombing of the mining areas by Sudanese Armed Forces was also reported.
Restrictions placed on UNAMID by the Sudanese Government, and on the armed movements, prevented peacekeepers from corroborating information. On 17 October, a UNAMID patrol en route to Hashaba came under attack by unidentified armed assailants, leaving one South African peacekeeper killed and three others wounded, representing the second fatal attack on the Mission in two weeks.
He reiterated the Secretary-General’s condemnation of those responsible for what he called “reprehensible acts” and called on Government authorities to swiftly bring the perpetrators to justice. Government police informed the Mission on 9 October that they had arrested a number of people in connection with the first incident, in El Geneina, but they had yet to provide specific information. The Mission continued to work closely with the Government on the liberation of the two UNAMID police officers kidnapped on 20 August.
Other security incidents included reports of clashes on 17 October between the Government and the forces of the Sudanese Liberation Army-Minni Minawi, also in North Darfur, which the Mission was currently in the process of verifying.
The Mission had, in response to resurgent violence in the north, augmented its patrols in camps and villages in the area and called on the parties to immediately cease their fighting. In general, UNAMID continued to take concerted action to protect civilians and otherwise implement its mandate by encouraging parties to avoid violence and resolve conflicts through peaceful means.
Following Mr. Mulet’s briefing, Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman (Sudan) took the floor, stating that the Darfur Peace Process had come a long way, as shown by the agreement reached with JEM a few days ago, which he called an historical breakthrough because that movement had previously refused to negotiate. In addition, the upcoming donor’s conference showed evidence of a shift from conflict resolution to development. He called on the international community to show support for the Darfur peace process at that conference.
On security incidents, he said that they were caused by militias that were outside the peace process and wanted to bring down the local Government, as well as groups that wanted to take advantage of disputes over grazing rights. Pressure must be exerted on the movements that did not want to join the march towards peace in Darfur. UNAMID was prevented access to Hashaba because of concerns over the safety of the Missions’ personnel, and fear of a repeat of recent ambush scenarios.
Authorities had arrested some of the murderers of peacekeepers in those incidents, he said, pledging that the Government would also rescue the victims of kidnappings and track down the perpetrators, who were also elements of armed movements.
He accused Israel of providing military aid to the armed movements in Darfur and providing air transport for their leaders. He said that yesterday four Israeli planes had invaded Sudanese airspace and attacked an arms factory. He rejected such aggression and expected the Council to condemn the attack and stop foreigners from meddling in the Darfur conflict, while helping secure peace and security for the inhabitants of Darfur and the wider region.
The meeting started at 3:09 p.m. and ended at 3:36 p.m.
The Security Council had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (document S/2012/771), containing the latest 90-day update on the situation in Darfur since 16 July. The report also provides an update on the development of an integrated strategic framework of United Nations system-wide support to the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and revised benchmarks and indicators against which the Council may assess progress made in the implementation of the mandate of the Operation, known as UNAMID.
In the report, the Secretary-General says that 15 months after the adoption of the Doha Document for peace, the signatory parties — the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) - have taken some action towards implementation, including the commencement of the verification of LJM forces, the dissemination of the Document and the holding of stakeholder conferences, but implementation of provisions that bring about concrete improvements of life in Darfur is “less evident”. Even given economic constraints, the parties could do more themselves. Of particular importance, he says, are the Special Court for Darfur, the Darfur Land Commission on land ownership and access, and the verification of LJM forces and the disarmament of armed groups.
Engagement of all parties to the conflict and other stakeholders in peaceful dialogue remains critical, the Secretary-General says, calling on the Sudanese Government and non-signatory movements to immediately cease hostilities and engage without pre-conditions in talks. It is imperative, in that regard, that the Government demonstrate that a negotiated agreement represents a viable means of ending the conflict. For their part, the movements must renounce the use of violence and present their objectives under a political platform that enables constructive dialogue. With the increase in violence shown by the report, particularly in North Darfur, the Secretary-General calls on the parties to fulfil their humanitarian obligations, noting that UNAMID stood ready to fully support the Government in establishing conditions to stem inter-tribal conflict.
During the reporting period, the homes of an estimated 26,200 people were destroyed by heavy rainfall and flooding, with thousands of livestock killed. The Return and Reintegration Working Group confirmed that a total of 55,404 internally displaced persons and 8,441 refugees voluntarily returned to various locations, mainly in North and West Darfur. Approximately 29,020 people were either newly displaced or re-displaced by fighting during the period, but all but some 2,400 of them returned within one week. There were 159 human rights violations reported, along with student protests over lack of transport and high commodity prices.
UNAMID and the United Nations Country Team, he says, continue to experience impediments in their work, including delays in the issuance of visas, restriction of movement and delays in approval of humanitarian assistance. He called on the Government to cooperate fully with UNAMID in that regard. He condemned in the strongest terms those responsible for the 12 August shooting incident that led to the death of a Bangladeshi formed police officer, expressed sadness over the deaths of three Tanzanian troops in a 26 August accident and expressed deep concern over the two UNAMID formed police officers kidnapped on 20 August.
As of 30 September, the strength of UNAMID civilian personnel stood at 85 per cent of the approved strength (1,106 international staff, 2,907 national staff and 453 United Nations volunteers). Military deployment stood at 16,789 and the strength of UNAMID police stood at 2,590.
* *** *