Mission to Darfur will see whether Sudan is meeting pledges - UN envoy

Mission to Darfur will see whether Sudan is meeting pledges - UN envoy

Jan Pronk, UN envoy for Sudan
A joint mission of United Nations staff, ambassadors and Sudanese Government ministers and officials will travel to the troubled Darfur region in the next week to observe first-hand whether Khartoum is making progress in its pledges to disarm the militias attacking black Africans and to improve security so that displaced civilians can return to their homes.

After briefing the Security Council behind closed doors today, Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sudan, told reporters that the mission will spend three days in Darfur assessing three questions: the degree of security; the current state of the Arab-dominated militias, known as the Janjaweed; and the future of the more than one million internally displaced persons (IDPs).

The mission has been organized under the auspices of the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM), a body set up after the UN and Sudan issued a communiqué on 3 July outlining their commitments to alleviate the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Darfur.

"On the basis of their findings, we will have a new meeting" of the JIM, Mr. Pronk said, adding that meeting will discuss what measures, if any, may be necessary to stop the Janjaweed.

The envoy said the mission has been established partly because of the conflicting nature of reports about what is happening in Darfur, a region the size of France that is beset by fighting between Sudanese Government forces and two rebel groups, and the deadly Janjaweed attacks against civilians.

"Much of the information cannot be tested because we have information [and] we have counter-information," he said.

More than a million people are internally displaced and another 180,000 live as refugees in neighbouring Chad because of the fighting and the militia attacks, creating what senior UN officials have described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Mr. Pronk said it was a positive step that Darfur rebel leaders and Sudanese officials have agreed to meet in Geneva tomorrow to discuss how to revive peace negotiations, which stalled over the weekend.

After the meeting, the Council President for July, Ambassador Mihnea Ioan Motoc of Romania, said the 15 members welcomed the joint verification mission and any other measures that would help make clear exactly what is happening on the ground.

Darfur is a particularly remote region in the west of Sudan and access to many areas of the region has become restricted recently because the annual rainy season has made some roads impassable.

Mr. Motoc also described the estimates of the number of people in Darfur facing potential famine or disease as alarming, saying humanitarian concerns were the priority for the Council.

Before briefing the Council, Mr. Pronk told reporters that it should "give teeth" to the JIM, adding the UN's humanitarian and political efforts in Darfur will gain strength if the Council demonstrates its support.

In the communiqué establishing the JIM, Sudan promised to disarm the Janjaweed, improve humanitarian access and end impunity for those who have committed human rights abuses. The UN vowed to deliver urgent aid and to play its part in any peace efforts.

So far, Mr. Pronk said, Sudan has shown progress in improving access for humanitarian workers, but no improvement in security for the IDPs who remain fearful of further attacks by the Janjaweed if they return to their home villages.

Mr. Pronk's briefing follows his visit to Khartoum last week for the first meeting of the JIM. Today he described his new role as "a tremendously difficult job," adding that "there is a major problem of poverty and neglect in Sudan."
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Video of remarks:

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before briefing [8 mins]

- after briefing [9 mins]