While Sudanese Government, African Union-UN Operation in Darfur Strive to Reduce Tensions, Questions Persist on Level of Engagement, Security Council Told
In Briefing, Under-Secretary-General Stresses Need to Improve Climate ‘In the Interest of the Population of Darfur’
Stemming heightened tensions between the Sudanese Government and African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) was critical to relieve the dire humanitarian situation in the region, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security Council this morning.
“I must once again underline the necessity of a continued engagement and cooperation between the Government of Sudan and UNAMID in order to resolve differences and create the most favourable climate in the interest of the population of Darfur,” Herve Ladsous told the 15-Member body.
Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on the issue (S/2014/852), Mr. Ladsous said that while it shows some progress on the political front, it depicts a “precarious” security situation, with 55 attacks against civilians during the previous reporting period, allegedly perpetrated by Arab militias, Government forces and unidentified armed elements. Intercommunal violence “markedly more deadly” had resulted in 377 confirmed deaths, and increased displacements and criminality, including attacks on villages, rapes and abductions.
The report states that the Government and UNAMID had worked closely together to address community conflicts and to reduce tensions in such areas as the Kalma displaced persons camp, where Government security measures met strong resistance from residents. Access restrictions on UNAMID were still of deep concern, challenging the Mission’s ability to protect civilians and its own personnel. In that regard, Mr. Ladsous strongly urged the Government to observe the terms of the status-of-forces agreement.
The importance of unhindered access, he continued, was exemplified by allegations of the rape of over 200 women in Thabit, North Darfur, which had surfaced in the media on 2 November. After repeated requests over several days, a verification mission had been sent on 9 November, but the team’s findings remained inconclusive “in part due to the heavy presence of military and police found in the village”. He urged immediate and independent access so that the facts could be determined.
Also feeding tensions between authorities and the Mission, he said, was the Government’s demand for the withdrawal of two human rights experts from the UNAMID liaison office in Khartoum, and discussion among authorities of the need for the Mission itself to exit.
Meanwhile, over the past few months, he said, UNAMID had further recalibrated its activities towards the newly defined strategic priorities — support to the peace process, protection of civilians and prevention and mitigation of community conflict — as described in the letter to the Council of 16 September (S/2014/670). The Mission, meanwhile, had streamlined its presence with 1,260 posts identified for abolition and the transportation fleet had been reduced.
Deep concern over violent attacks against the Mission continued, he said, with three more peacekeepers and one national staff dying in the reporting period. Expressing condolences, he called on the Government to work to hold accountable those responsible.
Concerning the peace process, he said, the direct talks between the Government and the armed movements known as the Sudanese Liberation Army-Minni Minawi (SLA-MM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) had begun on 23 November in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the first time under the auspices of the High-level Working Group of the African Union. He also welcomed the progress in implementation of the Doha Document for peace in Darfur, including security arrangements with the group known as the Justice and Liberation Movement (JLM).
Despite such progress, he said that the humanitarian situation remained dire, with the number of people displaced this year increasing to more than 430,000 and close to 300,000 of those remaining in displacement in addition to more than 2 million long-term displaced persons. While humanitarian access remained “severely problematic”, there had been some improvements, and UNAMID continued to work with the agencies to facilitate delivery through security and logistical support and integrated joint missions, he said.
Speaking after the briefing, the representative of Sudan, Rahamtalla Mohamed Osman Elnor, addressed Mr. Ladsous’ concerns of differences between the Mission and the Government, while highlighting recent progress in Darfur, much of which he said was included in the Secretary-General’s report. In that context, he noted that two delegations were negotiating peace agreements in Addis Ababa this very moment on behalf of his Government. Further, military operations had decreased in certain areas, and there had been much progress in reconstruction, with 70 per cent of development projects nearing completion.
He said that he had met with Mr. Ladsous to discuss the strategy and reasons for UNAMID’s withdrawal. “When we speak of exit strategies, we are speaking of an operation with phases,” he said. That had nothing to do with the closing of the UNAMID human rights office, as reported in the media. In fact, that office was still open. However, UNAMID had opened a small office in Khartoum without informing authorities. Since the Mission’s mandate was exclusively for Darfur, the Government had closed that office.
The allegations in the report about rape in the village of Thabit, he said, were rumours propagated by Radio Dabanga. The Government had facilitated UNAMID’s access to the village for investigations, and the fact-finding mission had spent as long as it wanted in the village on 9 November. He maintained that the report reiterated what he called the lies of the radio station, which was affiliated with a group that refused to sign the peace agreement. His Government was astonished by such unprofessional reporting. “Is it conceivable that 200 women and girls could be raped in the village without anybody avenging their honour or reporting the incident?” he asked.
The meeting began at 10:00 a.m. and ended at 10:38 a.m.