Permanent Representative Differs with Under-Secretary-General’s ‘Interpretation’
With the resumption of hostilities in Darfur marking the end of a period of relative calm, it was critical that the Government of Sudan extend its full support to the implementation of strategic United Nations priorities, peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous stressed today during a morning briefing to the Security Council.
Mr. Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the 15-member body that the recent confrontations had taken place mostly in west and north Darfur. Presenting the latest report of the Secretary-General on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (document S/205/1027), he went on to describe a number of security incidents including an attack on the mission itself.
He went on to say that, according to the Sudanese authorities, some 5,000 persons had been displaced due to the recent violence, but the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) could not confirm that number due to a lack of access to east Jebel Marra and other areas. Meanwhile, aerial bombardments had resumed and confrontations between Government forces and the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) continued. In response, UNAMID had strengthened its presence in the affected areas.
Against the backdrop of renewed military confrontation, the political process to resolve the Darfur conflict through dialogue remained fragmented and progress limited, he continued. Major armed movements and opposition parties were still boycotting the current national dialogue framework while continuing consultations on the next steps, with the support of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel. As for the Darfur peace process, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minnawi (SLA/MM) factions had met with the Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar in Paris on 11 January and pledged to develop a joint position paper on their concerns with respect to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.
He said that while the peace process remained inconclusive, the Darfur Referendum Commission had announced on 12 January that the referendum on the region’s administrative status would be conducted from 11 to 13 April 2016, in accordance with the terms of the Doha Document. Welcoming the preparations for holding the referendum, he noted nevertheless that the proposed timeline and eligibility criteria were likely to make it challenging for a large number of internally displaced persons and refugees to participate.
Those security and political developments pointed to a stark contrast between the Government’s views and those of the majority of armed movements and their constituencies on the current situation in Darfur, he noted. In a similar vein, the Vice-President of Sudan had indicated the closure of camps for the internally displaced person by the end of 2017, stating that Darfur had recovered from the war.
Describing a number of visa denials, he said the visa situation remained “precarious”, with no major improvements in the overall status. Meanwhile, with respect to progress on customs clearance, the Ministry of Finance had released 195 containers held in Port Sudan since 15 April 2015, and UNAMID was seeking the urgent release of 108 containers of rations. The United Nations and the Government of Sudan had held a meeting to resolve those support-related issues in Khartoum on 13 January, he said.
Expressing hope that, with the new UNAMID leadership on board, the Government would extend its full support and cooperation to implementation of the Mission’s strategic priorities, he said that, as mandated by the Council and the African Union, the United Nations remained committed to developing the UNAMID’s exit strategy on the basis of concrete and tangible achievements against its benchmarks. A strategic-level meeting among the United Nations, the African Union and the Government of Sudan was anticipated to take place on the margins of the forthcoming African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, he said, adding that he looked forward to full commitment by the Government to making measurable progress against key benchmarks, such as cessation of hostilities, inclusive peace process, and unhindered access and movement of United Nations and humanitarian personnel, as the starting point for further discussions on the phased drawdown of UNAMID.
Hassan Hamid Hassan (Sudan), saying he disagreed with the Under-Secretary-General’s interpretation of the facts in Jebel Marra and on the granting of visas, emphasized that the Sudan Liberation Army–Abdul Wahid’s rejection of a political settlement was a well-known position and Council resolutions outlined that a political settlement was the only way to reach a solution. Sudan had shown patience and wisdom by not excluding the group from the ceasefire. The President had offered a series of guarantees to persuade leaders of armed movements to rally around a political settlement, but Mr. Abdul Wahid’s faction had responded to the unilateral ceasefire by attacking villages in the east of Jebel Mara. “Our armed forces are duty-bound when it comes to protection of civilians” and restoring security in villages targeted by Mr. Abdul Wahid’s forces, he stressed.
On the humanitarian front, he urged the Under-Secretary-General to emphasize that there had been “minimal” new displacements, as outlined in the report, rather than his own reading of the facts. He said tribal clashes in several towns had been “broadly contained” thanks to the Government’s efforts and the strengthening of local leadership on issues of relocation and settlement. Resources lay at the heart of the clashes, which could be settled only through development and reconstruction. He urged the lifting of the sanctions imposed on Sudan as well as debt forgiveness. As for UNAMID, the tripartite mechanism had made several recommendations, including on the visa issue. Sudan had proposed that the tripartite mechanism meet on 29 and 30 January, contrary to what the Under-Secretary-General had described, he said, pointing out that the mechanism had ceased to function despite Sudan’s calls that it relaunch its activities.
On authorizations and customs permits for containers, he said the Government had created an auxiliary office to follow applications, but it had closed at UNAMID’s request. He called for its reopening. Returning to the visa question, he said 151 applications had been received, 141 had been issued and 4 were pending, meaning that the issuance rate in October had been higher than 93 per cent. In November, 282 applications had been received and 272 approved, for a 96 per cent issuance rate. In December, 213 applications had been received and 206 approved.
Citing resolution 2258 (2015), he reiterated the need for the joint working group on UNAMID’s drawdown strategy to resume its work.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 10:39 a.m.