Nearly One Third of Darfur’s People Still Displaced, Despite Drop in Violence, Assistant Secretary-General Tells Security Council
Sudan Permanent Representative Faults ‘Contempt’ for Doha Document for Peace
The armed groups in Darfur today had largely been defeated, the ferocity of intercommunal violence had declined, and there had been no new large‑scale displacements, Bintou Keita, Assistant Secretary‑General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council today.
However, those positive developments had not led to the voluntary and sustainable return of internally displaced persons, Ms. Keita said, noting that nearly one third of Darfur’s population remained displaced. Presenting the Secretary‑General’s latest report on the African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (document S/2017/907), she said the slow returns reflected anxiety about security and lack of confidence about present and future prospects due to slow progress in addressing such issues as land, poor resource management, accountability, and security sector reform.
The political process to negotiate a settlement of the conflict in Darfur with non‑signatories to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur remained stalled, she said, adding that armed clashes between Government and non‑signatory forces had subsided. The Government had begun the next stage of its disarmament campaign — the forced collection of weapons — which had raised tensions among militia groups not aligned with Government forces. Government forces, for their part, had clashed with the militia group allied to Musa Hilal near Korma, north Darfur, with both sides suffering an unconfirmed number of casualties, she said, adding that Government forces had begun house‑to‑house searches for weapons in Zalingei, central Darfur.
She went on to report that intercommunal violence also persisted, citing continuing tensions involving internally displaced persons, the Arab community, and the Sudan Liberation Army/Popular Defence (SLA/PD) in Sortony, north Darfur. On 7 November, the African Union‑United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) had prevented a group of armed Arabs from entering the internally displaced persons site, she said, adding that on 10 November, the mission had intercepted a group of Arab nomads firing randomly on the outskirts of Sortony.
UNAMID continued to work with local authorities and communities to promote grassroots‑level reconciliation and stabilization, she said. Emphasizing the importance of augmenting capacity to support longer‑term peacebuilding activities, she said UNAMID and the United Nations country team had finalized the integrated strategic framework for 2017‑2019, which set out priorities on the rule of law and human rights, durable solutions, and peacebuilding for human security. With the closure of 11 team sites and reduced numbers of military and police personnel, the mission’s civilian staffing had been readjusted and its budget for 2017‑2018 revised, she said.
Ms. Keita went on to report that the Jebel Marra Task Force would become operational on 1 January 2018, but voiced regret that the allocation of land on which to open a new team site in Golo was still pending. Establishing that new team site would be essential to underpinning the concept of reconfiguring UNAMID, and went hand in hand with the mission’s withdrawal from more stable parts of Darfur.
Notwithstanding Government efforts to combat criminality, the arms collection campaign and the deployment of the Rapid Support Forces would require careful management, she stressed, warning that further escalation of disarmament‑related tensions could also affect communal dynamics among militias and other competing groups.
Describing the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur as integral to addressing underlying communal tensions, she said its full implementation was an entry point for sustaining peace because it touched on the causes of the decades‑long conflict, including land, displacement and relationships with nomadic herders.
In conclusion, she said the level of cooperation between UNAMID and the Government of Sudan had been positive overall, although challenges remained in terms of access restrictions and customs clearance at Port Sudan. The Government’s commitment in accordance with the status‑of‑forces agreement, which also applied to the allocation of land for a new team site in Golo, would be most appreciated, she stated.
Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed (Sudan) emphasized the status of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur as an international agreement under the auspices of the African Union, the United Nations and the League of Arab States. It had lately been subjected to contempt by the Council, but the Government of Sudan would continue to implement it. The drawdown and reconfiguration of UNAMID would give way to a new stage in Darfur, he said, adding that, with the armed groups now outside the country, the Government could shore up projects seeking the root causes of the conflict while dealing with issues of displacement and weapons collection, among other things.
Turning to the report, he said it contained information that had not been verified, emphasizing that the United Nations should only use information it had collected itself, not from other sources. The Government was doing everything possible to restore peace and stability in Darfur; hopefully the Council would take the present situation into account when reconsidering sanctions. Since the maintenance of camps for the internally displaced in Darfur was no longer justified, efforts were under way to construct villages that would ensure better conditions for voluntary returns.
Luis Homero Bermúdez Álvarez (Uruguay), noting the absence of open clashes between Government forces and armed groups in recent months, emphasized the critical need for the Government and armed movements to abide by the cessation of hostilities declaration. Progress would enable the safe return of the 2 million internally displaced persons. Stressing the essential need for cooperation among the Government, UNAMID and the Council in order to complete the mission’s reconfiguration and drawdown, he said it still faced such logistical challenges as delays in the issuance of visas for human rights workers, and asked the Government to remove the remaining obstructions.
Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) emphasized that the report’s positive aspects were the result of cooperation among the Government of Sudan, the African Union and the United Nations. The parties must now focus on the political process, the root causes of the conflict, development, disarmament and reaching a permanent ceasefire. In that regard, he called upon non‑signatories to the Doha Document to engage with the Government, and on the Government and UNAMID to cooperate in improving the humanitarian situation of internally displaced persons. He also called for redoubling of efforts to end illegal detention and sexual violence against women and girls, stressing the need to redouble the promotion of justice, to reduce tensions in the disarmament campaign and to encourage commitment to that programme among the civilian population. It was critical to ensure State authority over its entire territory so that it could promote the rule of law, he said.
The meeting began at 10:52 a.m. and ended at 11:34 a.m.