Thursday, January 27, 2011

Darfur: Clashes in Darfur subside but tensions persist

UNAMID maintaining presence in North Darfur to ensure the safety of thousands of people displaced by recent clashes

UN - Intense fighting in Sudan’s Darfur region between Government forces and rebels has subsided but tensions persist and a resumption of violence is possible, a senior United Nations official said today.

The new fighting between the Government and the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minnawi movement (SLA-MM), who were joined by two other groups, the Sudan Liberation Army – Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), has already driven some 43,000 people from their homes, UN-African Union (AU) Joint Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari told the Security Council.

Mr. Gambari, who was speaking by video link from Sudan, heads the UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the more than 20,000-strong uniformed force set up in 2008 to help end a war that has killed at least 300,000 people and driven 2.7 million others from their homes since it erupted in 2003.

“UNAMID forces have maintained a robust presence and have increased patrolling in the villages affected by the recent fighting so as to create a security environment that would allow for the early, safe return of the recently displaced people,” he said.

He noted that access remained a challenge for UNAMID in many places in Darfur and he has issued instructions to “adopt a more robust posture and no longer create the perception of seeking permission for movement.”

Since then, supply and logistics convoys to all team sites have faced no hindrance, while “on other occasions we were able to push our way through due to robust posture and persistent negotiations by the patrol commanders,” Mr. Gambari reported.

“However, I also have to report that in other instances we have not yet been fully successful,” he added, citing the inability of humanitarian agencies to reach the scenes of recent fighting.

He reiterated calls for an end to fighting by both the army and the SLA/MM, which signed a peace accord with the Government in 2006 before the current deterioration in relations.

On the political front, Assistant Secretary-General in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) Atul Khare reported some progress in peace talks in Doha, Qatar, between the Sudanese Government and rebel groups despite the recent violence.

Joint negotiating committees from the LJM and the Government have concluded their work in broad areas of power-sharing, justice and reconciliation, compensation, return and resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), and security arrangements, but important disagreements remain, he told the Council.

These concern particularly the powers of a regional authority to implement any peace agreement and a vice presidency for Darfur in the national government in Khartoum, the capital.

Mr. Khare also cited among positive developments the decision by another rebel group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), to return to Doha and resume negotiations and continued consultations within the SLA-AW on the possibility of joining the Doha process.

Turning to South Sudan, where an independence referendum earlier this month was the culminating point of a peace process that ended a separate civil war in 2005, Mr. Khare noted that early indications of results from the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission point to an overwhelming vote in favour of secession.

But a parallel referendum to decide whether the disputed Abyei region joins the north or south has not been held, and he warned that tensions between the Arab nomadic Misseriya, linked to the north, and the agricultural Dinka-Ngok, linked to the south, remain high with the seasonal migration scheduled to resume soon.

The nearly 11,000-strong UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) “continues its efforts to deter a return to violence through the increased deployment and patrols of its troops, but absent a permanent settlement to the status of Abyei, the resumption of violence remains an ever present threat,” he said.