The first flight taking food aid from Libya directly into western Sudan's troubled Darfur region took place over the weekend as the United Nations food agency launched a campaign to reach nearly 2 million people during the rainy season, which begins in June.
An Ilyushin-76 aircraft landed on Saturday in the South Darfur state capital of Nyala from al-Kufra in south-east Libya carrying 30 tons of cereals, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), which hopes to deliver 5,000 tons monthly via the new air corridor.
The flight path follows last year's opening of an ancient caravan route overland for convoys of WFP food aid to travel from Libya to refugee camps in Chad, which are hosting some 200,000 Sudanese fleeing the two-year long conflict between the government, its allied militias and rebels.
"The extra capacity using the al-Kufra airlift will be a tremendous help during the approaching rainy season and concurrent period of greatest food shortages," said WFP's Sudan representative Ramiro Lopes da Silva. "We are looking at a worst-case scenario of more than three million people needing food assistance in Darfur from August."
Meanwhile, officials from the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) attended the signing, in Umm Kaddada, of a reconciliation agreement between 11 tribes from North Darfur and North Kordofan, and the implementation of another reconciliation agreement signed two weeks ago in El Fasher. First Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha, who was also present, stressed that those accused of crimes in Darfur would be prosecuted internally, and that reconciliation is the first step to political settlement.
On Saturday, the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM), co-chaired by Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Sudan, met in the capital Khartoum and decided to carry out a joint field visit to Darfur by mid-June to work up an evaluation report to mark it first year. Other issues discussed included the problems faced by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in South Darfur, and the Abuja peace process.
In other news concerning the end to Sudan's separate conflict in the south, the first meeting of the Ceasefire Joint Military Committee (CJMC), with observers representing the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) and the UN, was held yesterday at the UN Joint Military Coordination office in Juba.
The UN military representatives and the observers spent two hours discussing the military tasks and objectives covered in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ending the conflict between the Government and southern rebels, and agreed to hold regular meetings, approximately every two weeks, in order to ensure that the military and security forces of both parties fulfil their obligations under that accord.