Secretary-General's press encounter at future site of UNAMID headquarters [unofficial transcript]
El Fasher, Sudan, 5 September 2007SG: Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the future site of UNAMID. We are standing here where our hybrid peacekeepers will be stationed. I think this is the embodiment of our common and hard efforts to bring peace and security in Darfur and in Sudan as a whole, in bringing peace and security and development and protection of human rights.
I was so shocked and humbled when I visited camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). I was shocked at the poverty and hardship all these tens of thousands of people are undergoing. I really wanted to give them even a small sign of hope as Secretary-General. I felt very humbled by the limitedness of resources and power, and I would really urge the international community to help them return to their home and land, give them a sense of security, bring peace, as soon as possible. We must bring enduring peace, a durable peace and security here. We have already started.
By Security Council resolution  we are soon going to deploy 26,000 strong peacekeepers. We are working very hard. We are also close to convening a political process negotiation. I am working very hard, together with my Special Envoy Ambassador [Jan] Eliasson and African Union Special Envoy, Dr. Salim A. Salim. I hope I will very soon be able to finalize the venue and timing of the political negotiation process.
Again, when I met the representatives of the IDPs, I found that there was serious division of opinion and positions amongst them. There may be many differences of opinions. That is why we have seen the people of Darfur suffer. But they have suffered too long, too much. Now it is time for them to reconcile. The South and North Sudan should fully cooperate and coordinate to see the smooth implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. A peace agreement accompanied by hybrid operation, and a hybrid operation accompanied by a political process can bring peace and can bring an end to these difficulties and hardships which the Darfurian people and the Sudanese people have suffered so far.
I am very much committed.
My visit to Juba yesterday, and Darfur today, made my resolve stronger and firmer to work for the international community for peace and security here in Sudan and Darfur.
I saw how the development package is vitally important and necessary to those people.
This is a man made conflict. At the same time, even though we admit that this conflict in Darfur is man made, we need to look comprehensively at all the causes of this issue. There is a scarcity of resources, environmental degradation. Among them, lack of water is one of these sources. I was again struck by how difficult it is for them to have water. Water sustains lives, and the work of the United Nations to explore water must continue, and the international community and the United Nations must continue to explore water resources.
All in all, this has been a very useful visit. Tomorrow in Khartoum I am going to meet President Bashir and parliamentary leaders, all the representatives, and I am going to discuss this matter again with President Bashir.
I have firm assurances from those leaders, President Bashir and First Vice President Salva Kiir in southern Sudan – the international community and the United Nations must coordinate and help these people so that they will be able to enjoy genuine peace and genuine security.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to commend, express my appreciation to all those UN staff, NGOs, humanitarian workers and international community for their continued support and cooperation.
And now I am ready to answer your questions.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the protest today on your visit, and also security alerts that got in the way of your visits - were you surprised when you arrived that people were shouting at you? And also, what is your general reaction to this and will you bring it up with President Bashir when you see him tomorrow?
SG: I would not regard it a protest against me or against the United Nations. All the people, as you have seen – 100,000 people in Juba, and tens of thousands of people in Darfur, all welcomed me and they all welcomed and appreciated the United Nations. What they shouted at me I would think was an expression of their frustration, and expression of their anger on why they had suffered that much. The international community listened carefully and solemnly to their concerns. I had a meeting with representatives of IDPs. It was unexpected. But I was not surprised. I thought that that kind of complaint or protest might happen. There was some serious concern when they wanted to push through the door to participate in that meeting. Even though that meeting was disturbed, I was able immediately to meet representatives of those people, and I am going to meet with representatives of those protesters here at 6:30 or 7 o'clock. I met the governor and I told him I would like to meet and listen to their concerns. I am here to hear all the views if they have. The important thing is that the representatives of the IDPs whom I met this morning were chosen among themselves, by a decision among themselves. But you cannot expect that all four million IDPs would have the same views. I really want to hear all the concerns, all the views from everybody.
I am going to raise this issue again with President Bashir tomorrow morning. What I felt while visiting the IDP camp was that they all appreciated the United Nations, they all appreciated and welcomed my visit, and they really wanted to see some hope from me, from the United Nations and from the international community.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, one of the issues that was raised by these people, which is the voluntary return of people from the camps which President Al-Bashir has been pushing for. Are you concerned that there is still not enough security outside the camps in the villages for these people to return, and what do you think that the United Nations can do? Is there something they might be forced to do?
SG: Generally, I would like to believe that the security condition has been improving with the hard work and measures taken by the Sudanese government and Darfurian authorities. At the same time, one cannot be sure that there is full security and peace here. We must continue to protect and provide security. For that, early deployment of the hybrid [force] will be extremely important. AMIS has been contributing greatly, and we need to see a smooth transition from AMIS to a hybrid operation.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, the message that you have been carrying Khartoum, Juba and Darfur is the full implementation of the CPA, which was signed in 2005. Have you identified any breaches, lack of implementation, of that agreement of 2005?
SG: I know that there are still remaining, pending issues, like the redeployment, which should have taken place by July 9, which has not taken place. I have reported it to the Security Council. Demarcation. And the status of Abyei. All these are some remaining pending issues. I have received formal assurances from both leaders – President Bashir and first Vice President Salva Kiir. At the same time I would like to hope, and I urge both leaders, on the basis of mutual trust and confidence and through close coordination, will sincerely look at this issue and try to implement this CPA. The CPA and peace and harmonious relationship between south and north Sudan will mean a lot and will have great implications for the future of Sudan. They have two important political milestones – political milestones – elections in 2009, and the referendum in 2011, and the United Nations has offered any technical or political assistance in their own efforts.
SG: I want our people, peacekeepers, to abide strictly by the highest level of code of conduct and ethical standard. My policy is zero tolerance in code of conduct, particularly in SEA - sexual exploitation and abuse.
Q: [inaudible] about IDPs saying today that UN backing one side.
SG: The United Nations is not backing any side of this conflict or issues. The United Nations is impartial, objective and taking a neutral position. The United Nations' role is to facilitate smooth progress of political dialogue and reconciliation. For that purpose, I would like to strongly urge again, that when we convene political negotiations soon, that all the representatives of all the movements and regional players, they should participate. I know that there were some representatives of groups who have boycotted, who have not participated. This is going to be the official formal negotiation, therefore it is crucially important for the future of Sudan. I hope, and I strongly urge, that they all participate. And in that regard I have discussed it with the two leaders of Sudan, and urged them to exercise all possible influence, so that all people who have not participated will come, and at the same time regional players and leaders should not spare any efforts to
influence and convince them to participate.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, once again on the question of returns - the UN does have an assisted programme of returns for people [inaudible]. We heard today from AMIS that violence against civilians has reduced considerably. Why is it not possible for the UN to begin even a modest programme of assisted returns, perhaps a pilot scheme, in those areas where security is possible and where AMIS and the new hybrid force can provide security?
SG: Many humanitarian workers, humanitarian NGO communities, have been assisting and providing humanitarian assistance. As you have already seen, the number of [people affected] ranges over four million people - there are two million [displaced], and four million [affected]. There are practical, logistical limitations. We must bring peace and security so that they will be able to voluntarily return to their own homes and land. For that, governments and the international community, the United Nations and the humanitarian community must have collective efforts.
SG: Let us not talk too much about what has happened in the past. We are going through a very important, critical period, in the history of Sudanese and Darfur affairs. The important thing is that we have made some credible progress, both in peacekeeping operations and in political negotiation. But we should not claim that these are successes. We have a [long] way to go to be able to claim that. On the basis of this progress we have made, we must build upon. Therefore it is important that the commitment made by President Bashir and which was confirmed by me and by the Chairman of the African Union [Commission], Mr. [Alpha Oumar] Konare. And the commitment of First Vice President Salva Kiir. These commitments are important. They will be tested. We will see. The international community is closely watching.
Q: If you were asked to comment on accomplishments of your visit, what would you report?
SG: My commitment and resolve have been much strengthened and have become firmer. I am encouraged by the strong participation and support from the international community to resolve this Darfur situation. I am going to be continuously engaged in bringing an end to this issue as soon as possible, through political negotiation process, through early deployment of the hybrid force.
Q: [inaudible] Don't you think that this multi donor trust fund is endangering the peace agreement and is endangering the situation in the country?. What do you think?
SG: There was a firm agreement and pledge by the multi donor trust fund. I do not think the delay in payments to this multi donor trust fund does not have direct implications to the development of southern Sudan or any other political milestones. In fact, a substantial contribution, amount, has already been paid, and I will discuss this matter with donors to expedite such payment for the speedy execution of the project.
Q: [inaudible] on hybrid force.
SG: In the last four years, this situation in Darfur somehow, regrettably, became the headline news and concern of the international community. There were many reasons why. First of all, there was not much full cooperation from the government and the parties concerned and again the rebel movement groups. After such a long period of suffering and killings of civilians, the international community has recognized the urgency of this issue and the people of Sudan have recognized also the urgency of this issue. On that recognition of the urgency, I think we have been able to make some progress this year, in the last seven or eight months. We must not lose this opportunity. The whole international community is united. We must take this situation in Darfur off the list of conflicts and concerns of the United Nations.