Thursday, July 29, 2010

Darfur: UN in a blind alley as peace eludes Darfur

By Richard Johnson
Republished courtesy of
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

GENEVA (IDN) - As the mandate, being carried out by the UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID), comes to an end on July 31, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's report to the Security Council indicates that the situation in Sudan's western region is rather critical.

With this in view, Ban would like the UNAMID mandate to be extended for another year. This, he says in his report to the Security Council, would help "to expand the work it (UNAMID) has painstakingly begun amid conditions of extreme insecurity" so that positive developments can be converted into lasting improvements in Darfur.

In order to maximize the potential of UNAMID, however, he believes it is essential that the Sudanese authorities show greater practical commitment to providing an enabling environment for the mission.

The report (document S/2010/382) tabled on July 27, 2010, notes some indications of progress in 2010, including the signing of a protocol on border security by Sudan and Chad, and the holding of largely peaceful elections.

However, efforts for peace have been "frustrated" by the fragmentation of Darfur's armed groups and by ongoing military operations, as violence, displacement and human rights violations have continued in the region, the report says.

"An estimated 116,000 people have been displaced so far in 2010, compared with about 175,000 in 2009 and around 3,000 in both 2007 and 2008. In May 2010, the World Food Programme (WFP) distributed food to more than 3 million people throughout Darfur, while more than 250,000 intended beneficiaries could not be reached owing to security concerns."

According to the report, violence flared in May 2010 between Government and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), in breach of an agreement on cessation of hostilities signed earlier in 2010, making that month the deadliest since the establishment of UNAMID in 2007.

In addition, tribal conflict, criminality and violations of human rights continued throughout the first half of 2010. Violent attacks also continued against UNAMID personnel, five of whom were killed in recent months.

"These are not signs that peace in Darfur is being pursued with seriousness and in good faith," the UN Secretary-General states, noting that JEM's withdrawal from the peace talks in Doha (Qatar) has undermined the goal of a rapid resolution of the conflict.

Urging an immediate termination of the ongoing military confrontations and a commitment to the peace process under the Joint Chief Mediator, he warns that without an inclusive and comprehensive peace agreement in Darfur, as Southern Sudan heads towards a referendum on its future status, there is a risk of increased instability in the entire country.

Ibrahim Gambari, Joint Special Representative for UNAMID, asked the Security Council to support a "holistic" approach to ending the conflict and to promote the participation of all parties in the peace process.

"Significant progress is contingent not only on the full deployment and capacities of the mission, but also on the willingness of all parties in Darfur to facilitate and contribute to UNAMID mandate implementation and to effectively work towards lasting peace and stabilization," Gambari said.

He was presenting the UN Secretary-General's detailed report, which provides an overview of the situation from May 1 to June 30, 2010 and evaluates overall trends during the year. He asked the Council, in particular, to renew its appeal to the Justice and Equality Movement to rejoin and to the Abdul Wahid branch of the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) to engage in peace talks being held in Doha, Qatar, without any preconditions, in order to finalize a peace agreement before the end of the year 2010.

In an obvious effort not to present a completely frustrating picture of the situation, he said, it was perhaps fortunate that precisely at the same time as the security situation had deteriorated, prospects for a negotiated settlement appeared to have improved slightly with the improved participation of other parties, including the Government of Sudan.

Such an agreement was crucial in enabling UNAMID to implement its core mandate of protecting civilians and facilitating humanitarian assistance, he pointed out, emphasizing that the mission would also benefit from more support in the form of utility helicopters, a transport company, an aerial surveillance unit and the lifting of restrictions.

He reported that the Doha talks, which included the participation by the Sudanese Government and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), were making steady progress and had received an important boost from the second civil society forum on July 12.


However, the absence of JEM and SLM-Abdul Wahid was extremely unfortunate, he said, noting that Joint Chief Mediator Djibril Bassolé was urging both groups to join the process and discussing possible modalities for their participation.

UNAMID continued to support Bassole's efforts and was finalizing its preparations for an internal political dialogue on important matters in support of the Doha talks, Gambari said. To that end, the mission would be engaging with internally displaced persons, refugees and the broader civil society, as well as with the newly elected legislators in the region's three states and Darfurians elected or appointed to positions in the national Government.

Turning to the diplomatic front, he reported that two key meetings of international stakeholders engaged in Sudan had recently taken place, the first, on July 17, being the first meeting of the Sudan Consultative Forum, encompassing the permanent members of the Security Council, the European Union, all of Sudan's neighbours, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the African Union and the United Nations.

The second meeting was the just-concluded session of the African Union Peace and Security Council. All participants had reaffirmed their commitment to coordinated international involvement in Darfur, he said.

Now nearing full deployment, UNAMID had some 88per cent of its military component, 70 per cent of its police personnel -- including 13 of 19 formed police units -- and 75 per cent of its civilians in theatre, he said.

He said UNAMID had been able to expand its patrols, in both numbers and range, throughout the three Darfur states, with a view to contributing to a stable and secure environment throughout the region, he said.

It was currently conducting an average of more than 100 patrols a day, and intensifying its community policing efforts. However, challenges remained on the path to lasting peace and stabilization, he said, recalling that, during his last briefing to the Council on June 14, he had drawn attention to the dire security situation and serious operational challenges facing UNAMID.

"It is with greater concern that I must report to you again today that, despite considerable efforts on the part of UNAMID, the security situation in Darfur has not improved."

Indeed, fighting between Government forces and JEM continued to be a major source of insecurity in several parts of Darfur, he noted. The Government had been able to dislodge JEM from their traditional stronghold in Jebel Moon in West Darfur and the Adoula mountains in South Darfur, in addition to disrupting their main supply routes to El Fasher and Nyala.

Of late, JEM convoys had been sighted in North Darfur moving northwards, possibly towards the Libyan border, he said, adding that the resumption in fighting had been accompanied by JEM's withdrawal from the Doha peace talks.


"In an apparent attempt to take advantage of the Government's military engagement with JEM, the Abdul Wahid faction of the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA), attacked Sudanese Armed Forces positions in the Jebel Marra area around May29," he continued, noting that the attack had led to sporadic fighting, civilian casualties and the displacement of several communities.

In addition to those "very troubling” military confrontations, intense inter-communal fighting had erupted between the Misseriy and Nawaiba communities -- both semi-nomadic Arab tribes who had been fighting over fertile land along the boarder of South and West Darfur states.

The fighting had led to an estimated 126 casualties in May and 133 in June, compared to a total of 134 for the whole of 2009. The two tribes had reached a peace agreement on June 29, and it was largely holding, he added.

Of equally grave concern, there had been a spike in criminal acts and attacks against United Nations and humanitarian personnel, he reported. UNAMID peacekeepers had been attacked on 28´occasions during the previous year, leaving 10 dead and 26 injured. The mission had also had two of its personnel kidnapped as well as six humanitarian colleagues.

In the most recent event, on June 21, armed men in military fatigues had attacked UNAMID troops guarding a construction site in Nertiti, West Darfur. Three UNAMID military personnel from Rwanda and three attackers had been killed in the shooting.

"I would like to underscore once again that such attacks against peacekeepers constitute a war crime," Mr. Gambari said.

Calling attention to another recent event that the mission was working urgently to address, he said that just the previous day, July 26, a UNAMID helicopter had gone missing while transporting members of the LJM Security Arrangements Committee to locations in South Darfur.

"Fortunately, earlier today (July 27), we have been able to establish contact with three of the four crew members of the helicopter, as well as one international staff, who was reported to be in safety at a Government of Sudan location south of Menawashi," he said, noting, however, that the helicopter's captain remained missing.

He said that, in response to the attacks against uniformed UNAMID personnel, he had met with high-level Sudanese officials, including the Vice-President and the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, in order to reiterate earlier demands that the Government conduct thorough and timely investigations into such incidents and prosecute those involved.

Following those meetings, the mission had received in the 29th week of the year, a note verbale from the Government, condemning the attacks on UNAMID troops and announcing that it would establish an emergency reaction force and enhance cooperation and information exchange with the mission to mitigate the remaining security risks.

While welcoming those actions, he appealed for the Council's support and that of the wider United Nations membership to impress upon the Government the urgent need to address the continuing impunity of such attacks.

Progress towards a stable humanitarian situation had slowed in the past weeks due to the renewed fighting, he said, reiterating his call on the parties to respect UNAMID’s mandate and allow it, along with the humanitarian community, full access to affected populations.

Talks were continuing for that purpose, he said, adding that the mission was also seeking unrestricted use of its tactical helicopters in support of mandated activities, which had not yet been granted. It was particularly important for the Government to address the root causes of the conflict in Darfur — economic marginalization and competition for scarce resources -- by fostering development through increasing public investment in existing "pockets of peace".

Meanwhile, UNAMID now has more than 17,000 troops and over 4,000 police personnel on the ground, the report states, adding that it is continuing to carry out vital tasks such as providing escorts and supporting the humanitarian community in the delivery of aid.

The mission is also regularly patrolling thousands of kilometres of road, "providing an active deterrent to opportunistic violence and crime".

UNAMID police have pioneered the concept of community policing inside camps for internally displaced persons, including patrols 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in 18 camps, the report says, noting that they are present in many vulnerable communities across Darfur.