Peacekeeping Chief Says No Evidence of Chemical Weapons Use Found, as Sudan’s Representative Urges Partial Drawdown of Hybrid Mission
The recent signing up of additional parties to a road map for ending conflict in Darfur must be followed by action to consolidate peace and ensure delivery of aid to those displaced by long-term and recent fighting in the western region of Sudan, the head of United Nations peacekeeping told the Security Council today.
“The parties should from now on implement both the letter and the spirit of the document and engage themselves in resumed negotiations towards arriving quickly at an agreement on ending hostilities and providing access for humanitarian aid,” Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said as he briefed the 15-member Council.
Giving an overview of the security, political and humanitarian situation in Darfur, he also introduced the latest report of the Secretary-General on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (document S/2016/812), which notes that in August, a coalition of armed groups known as Sudan Call signed the peace road map outlined by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel.
On other political developments, he said that President Omer al-Bashir had dissolved some bodies established under the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and, on 26 September, had officially received the recommendations of the National Dialogue Conference, which he had pledged to implement following its conclusion on 10 October. Amid persistent disagreements over that date, however, and since Sudan Call had not yet signed up, that process remained seriously constrained.
The security situation in certain areas of central Darfur remained volatile, with fighting between the Sudanese army and the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid, which remained outside the peace process, he continued. Calm in other areas was disturbed by sporadic seasonal violence between pastoralists and farmers, as well as other inter- and intra-communal violence. Government measures to address those tensions must be augmented by initiatives to resolve complex governance and development challenges, he said.
The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) continued to support initiatives by the central Government, as well as local authorities to restore peace and stability in communities, he said, adding that it also remained focused on its core objective of protecting civilians. Calling upon the Government and the international community to work closely with UNAMID in addressing challenges, he said that, with displacement increasing amid fighting in central Darfur, the mission also continued to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance while engaging with the parties, with a view to an immediate end to hostilities, and with the Government so as to ensure full and unhindered access in conflict areas.
Reporting a relative improvement in the issuance of visas to UNAMID personnel, he said that delays in releasing some of the mission’s equipment at Port Sudan continued to hamper operational effectiveness. On 17 October, the African Union, United Nations and the Government of Sudan would resume discussions on an exit strategy for UNAMID, he said, adding that a critical step in that process would be developing agreed criteria for measuring progress towards benchmarks agreed following the convening of the Joint Working Group in May.
Regarding allegations that the Government had used chemical weapons in Jebel Marra, he said the United Nations had not come across any evidence to support such claims. He pointed out, however, that UNAMID had consistently been denied access to conflict zones in Jebel Marra, and that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had stated, in an initial assessment, that it was not possible to draw any conclusions without further information and evidence being made available. He encouraged the Government, which he noted was a signatory to the Convention on Chemical Weapons, to maintain full cooperation with any future OPCW investigation.
Omer Dahab Fadl Mohammed (Sudan) reported a significantly improved security situation in Darfur, saying it was time for UNAMID to start drawing down in those regions where there was no need for a continued troop presence, because the Government was sparing no effort to provide security, and more than 150,000 displaced people had returned to their villages. The President had marked the end of the Darfur Regional Authority in early September, he noted, affirming also that all parties had been invited to the Dialogue Conference. The international community and the Council should exert pressure on those who did not wish to join the Dialogue, he said, calling on all those backing such groups to end their support. Emphasizing that spoilers inside and outside the country should not be allowed to prolong the conflict and “disintegrate” the country, he said the Government was determined to cooperate and coordinate with UNAMID in all aspects, including an exit strategy.
Also making a statement this morning was Elbio Rosselli (Uruguay), who welcomed the progress made towards implementation of the road map while expressing concern about the absence of some groups from the Dialogue. Noting that some 2.5 million people had been displaced in Darfur, 80,000 of them since the beginning of 2016, he said it was crucial that the Government guarantee unhindered access to UNAMID and its partners in order to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:38 a.m.