NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–20 May 2010 – Despite some progress in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region, violent clashes between Government and rebel forces persist, civilians are still dying or being displaced and humanitarian workers are still coming under attack, the top United Nations official in the region said today.
“Results have been mixed despite our best efforts,” the head of the joint African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Ibrahim Gambari, told the Security Council, presenting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the region, where seven years of conflict have killed an estimated 300,000 people and driven 2.7 million others from their homes.
“In the area of security and the protection of civilians some progress has been made, but pockets of instability remain. The peace process, which I have been proactively supporting under the leadership of the Joint Mediation team, has progressed but a deep sense of mistrust remains and some parties are not engaging in the process,” he said, referring to UN-AU-sponsored talks in Doha, Qatar, between the Government and various rebel groups.
The plusses he cited include framework agreements signed between the Government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), a coalition of two groups merged to give greater cohesion to the peace talks.
But the parties could not agree on a final peace accord by the 15 March deadline and the JEM suspended its participation in the talks earlier this month due to alleged violations of the ceasefire agreement and attacked Government positions and commercial truck convoys. Renewed fighting has also been reported between the Government and another group, the Abdul Wahid faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), as well as between tribes in South Darfur.
“These clashes have caused substantial civilian casualties, the displacement of communities, and hampered the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” Mr. Gambari said, calling on all parties to facilitate access for UNAMID and the humanitarian community to the sites of recent fighting.
“In this context, it is with grave concern that I must report that UN and humanitarian personnel continue to be a target of attacks and criminal acts,” he added, citing attacks against UNAMID peacekeepers, abductions and carjackings.
“To thwart future recurrences of such incidents I have given firm instructions to our troops and police contingents to respond more robustly to attacks. I have also made it clear in all my engagements that such attacks constitute war crimes.”
In a statement yesterday, Mr. Ban deplored the military build-up and clashes, urging all parties to respect the ceasefire and return to the negotiating table in Doha. In his report he noted that even though UNAMID is moving towards full capacity, it still lacks crucial equipment required to enhance the capability of its military and police units, a point Mr. Gambari stressed today.
The mission’s overall unformed strength has increased to nearly 22,000 personnel out of the 26,000 mandated and tactical helicopters have arrived but “critical enabling units such as military utility helicopters and aerial surveillance units have not yet been pledged,” he said.
He also highlighted the importance of creating an environment for the voluntary return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to their homes. “The retention of an estimated 2.3 million inhabitants in IDP camps in Darfur constitutes a time-bomb as experience elsewhere, such as in Lebanon and Gaza, have demonstrated,” he said, noting that it is the Government’s responsibility to provide the significant resources needed to rehabilitate and develop the region.
In a meeting with reporters, Mr. Gambari underscored the need for Darfurians overall to enjoy the benefits of the “peace dividends,” which require early recovery, reconstruction and development projects, a point he stressed in his briefing to the Council.