Decrying a “reversion to violence” in Sudan’s conflict-hit Darfur region, despite a recent peace deal, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today in Brussels called for an end to hostilities and urged donors to support the African Union mission there, saying it was critical to act now to safeguard the agreement and stop further bloodshed.
Mr. Annan, speaking at a pledging conference for the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), described the May peace deal as a “road map” for stability after three years of destruction, but acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead in bringing peace to the region, particularly as some rebel factions had not signed the agreement.
“What must not happen, but at present is happening much too much, is a reversion to violence. Some of it is perpetrated by parties that refused to sign the Agreement, but some also by parties that did sign it. This must stop, immediately,” he declared.
“AMIS has performed valiantly, in very difficult conditions. But it must now be better resourced and empowered to perform its critical work. Unless it is, the Peace Agreement will be jeopardised, and no one in Darfur will be secure.”
While there exists “a precious window of opportunity to end this cruel conflict,” he warned that “unless we leap through that window now it will very soon close.”
Calling on those present to “make sure that does not happen,” he said: “The step we can take here is critical.”
Mr. Annan said that much was also expected of the Government of Sudan and he had discussed this with President Omar al Bashir at the recent African Union Summit, where he also repeated that the strengthening of AMIS in the short term, and a transition to a UN operation in Darfur in the medium term, are “two fundamental tools available to the Sudanese people.”
President al Bashir has agreed on the need to strengthen AMIS and to consolidate the peace accord in Darfur, which has seen scores of thousands of people killed and over 2 million displaced, but he has so far rejected the idea of a UN force as being colonial or having a hidden objective, something Mr. Annan again rejected today.
“No hidden agenda drives us; only the urgent need of Darfur’s people. United Nations peacekeeping forces – which will come primarily from Africa and Asia, with some additional, and much needed, support from developed countries – will come to Darfur not as occupiers, but as helpers,” he said.
“A strengthened AMIS and a transition to a United Nations operation are means by which the Government of Sudan can work to ensure that its people in Darfur are protected, and can give them hope of living a better life, in peace, freedom and prosperity.”
The Secretary-General said the UN would continue “active discussions” with the Government of Sudan on this basis, emphasizing that the world body, the African Union and Khartoum share the same goal of lasting peace in Darfur.
“The Sudanese people have at last set out on the road to peace in Darfur. The African Union has been with them every step of the way. Let us now make the final destination inevitable, so that millions of displaced people can return to their homes, and this terrible conflict can finally be brought to an end,” he concluded.
In addition to causing large-scale death and displacement, the fighting in Darfur between Government forces, pro-government militias and rebels has been characterized by charges of civilian massacre, rape and other atrocities.