The United Nations envoy for Sudan Jan Pronk today began a two-day mission to assess the situation in Sudan's Darfur region, during which he will visit camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and meet local authorities.
Representatives of the Sudanese Government and the humanitarian community will also brief him on developments since Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Government signed a Joint Communiqué last year, Mr. Annan's spokesman Fred Eckhard said at the daily briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.
The Joint Communiqué listed actions that each side would take on security, humanitarian and other issues and created a Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM), which Mr. Pronk heads.
The JIM team was visiting the Mornei and Riyadh IDP camps and were later to meet local leaders, or Sheikhs, Mr. Eckhard said.
In North Darfur, the Zam Zam camp was tense after two soldiers shot at a truck travelling along a nearby road on Sunday, he said. At a meeting Monday with representatives of the African Union (AU) and humanitarian agencies, IDPs expressed concern that national security employees "are intimidating people each time they are seen talking to high-level visitors."
A team from the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was stopped and taken to a police station in Habila, West Darfur, by national security personnel who claimed that all humanitarian workers needed to check in despite their blanket travel permit, Mr. Eckhard said.
It was the third time that humanitarian workers with travel permits had been stopped, he said.
In his monthly report to the Security Council, Mr. Annan noted that his visit to Sudan in May was his first to the region in almost a year. During the visit, it was clear to him that the overall level of violence against civilians was lower than that of last year, but this May "witnessed an increase in the level of violence and insecurity as compared to April."
The two major rebel movements, the Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), clashed increasingly in May and "it appeared that SLA was more often the instigator of the clashes."
The upswing in violence on the eve of peace negotiations in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, beginning last Friday, might have followed similar patterns in the past when the parties increased their offensive strikes to gain a tactical advantage at the negotiating table, Mr. Annan said.
"While there have been improvements in some areas, militia activity remains a serious threat to civilians, either by forcing people from their homes and preventing those who have been chased away from returning or harassing people who are confined to camps for internally displaced persons," he said. "This must stop."