Senior United Nations and Sudanese officials met today to prepare for the next stage in the plan for the Government of Sudan to act within 30 days to disarm militias responsible for deadly attacks in the troubled Darfur region, improve security for the 1.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
Jan Pronk, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Sudan, and Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail met in the capital Khartoum to discuss preparations for the next meeting Thursday of the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM), which will focus on the status of implementation of the 3 July joint communiqué between the UN and the Sudanese Government, as well as the Darfur Plan of Action.
The two co-signed a letter transmitting to Mr. Annan and Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al Bashir the text of that plan, which was agreed to last week and approved Sunday by the Sudanese Cabinet.
On the humanitarian front, a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency expressed concern that in West Darfur State the local authorities and the Government of Sudan were continuing to pressure IDPs to return to villages that are not safe and do not offer any possibility of a decent life, since most of the crops have and homes have been destroyed by rampaging militias.
In South Darfur, meanwhile, the Government has said that it intended to move tens of thousands of IDPs now living in Kalma camp and Kas town - where international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies estimate the number of displaced people at about 40,000, outstripping the number of original inhabitants - both near the state capital of Nyala.
In Mornei, Sudanese authorities have announced their intention to move displaced people from a makeshift camp into a new camp to be called "New Mornei." The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has consistently told the government at all levels that any movement of IDPs must be entirely voluntary, because people who have already suffered the trauma of being chased from their homes by armed militiamen do not need the further trauma of another forced move, spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis said.
"The government is posting policemen in empty villages in an effort to convince displaced people that it is safe to return to those villages. However, displaced people tell us they are not reassured by government policemen and do not feel the time is yet right for their return home," Ms. Pagonis said.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that despite Sudanese pledges to improve humanitarian access made under the 3 July communiqué, agencies report that humanitarian access in Darfur has deteriorated over the past week.
The Government has been placing restrictions on World Food Programme (WFP) flights, causing major delays in the deployment of humanitarian staff, OCHA said. Two weeks ago, the Government grounded WFP flights for two days for no apparent reason, and asked the UN agency to submit detailed weekly reports on passenger flights and cargo shipments.
More international NGOs were also reporting difficulties in hiring national staff due to Government-imposed restrictions and delays, OCHA added.