As Darfur peace talks remained stalled, militia attacks intensified last month and are the greatest cause of terror and suffering among civilians in the western Sudanese province, a senior United Nations peacekeeping official told the Security Council today.
"Attacks on civilians, rape, kidnapping and banditry actually increased from the previous month," Assistant Secretary-General Hédi Annabi said in his briefing on two reports, one dealing with UN assistance to the African Union mission in Darfur and the other a monthly update. "While there was no evidence of direct involvement by regular Government forces last month, there were widespread reports of abuse by militia."
The last round of peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, took place last December and, while the AU was working to reconvene the talks next week, "it is not yet clear whether the parties are committed to meaningful negotiations," he said.
The parties should dedicate themselves to making the Abuja process work and the international community should continue to make it clear that peace can come about only through negotiations, Mr. Annabi said.
On the question of a 7 April daylong attack on Khor Abeche, displacing the entire population of 10,000 – 3,000 townspeople and 7,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) – the AU and the UN would pass the names of the militia members involved to the Panel of Experts for sanctions, Mr. Annabi said.
The monthly report on Darfur, released today, identified the commander of the militia at Khor Abeche as Nasir al-Tijani Adel Kaadir.
The rebel Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), meanwhile, seized at gunpoint a number of commercial and humanitarian vehicles, and in one case a humanitarian worker was gravely injured, Mr. Annabi said.
"There are reliable reports that the vehicles are taken with the aim of converting them into battlefield platforms," the report amplifies.
The AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) has deployed 2,409 troops and 244 police and has been having a positive impact, Mr. Annabi said. Late in April the AU Peace and Security Council decided to more than double its size by the end of September, he added.
AMIS recommended that logistical support for the expansion was best accomplished by building on existing systems, in which individual donors provided support, and it has been proposed that the UN add training support and technical assistance to the contributions, Mr. Annabi said.
"UN personnel are currently working with staff from AMIS and AU headquarters to develop a detailed concept of operations for the expansion of the AU Mission," he said.
Meanwhile, a UN spokesperson said Mr. Annan warmly welcomed the expected announcement by Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada that his country would offer substantial military assistance to the AU for Darfur.