Secretary-General Kofi Annan reiterated his appeal to the Government of Sudan to accept United Nations forces in the country's troubled Darfur region, as mandated by the Security Council.
Last week, the Council agreed today to deploy a UN peacekeeping force of more than 17,000 troops in Darfur. The resolution creating the operation “invites the consent” of the Sudanese Government to the deployment, although Khartoum has said on several occasions that it is opposed to any kind of UN force taking over the role of the African Union's (AU) current operation – known by the acronym AMIS – in Darfur.
The Secretary-General was asked about Khartoum's rejection of the resolution at a press conference today in Qatar. “If the Government of Sudan had been able to protect these people, we would not even be talking about deploying international troops,” he noted.
Since Sudan's Government has not been able to address the situation, “it is incumbent on it to accept international help to pacify the region so that people can live their lives in peace and dignity,” he added, voicing hope that the country's leaders will “realize that by their inability to protect them, they will be held liable at some stage for what is going on on the ground.”
The Secretary-General recalled that UN members recently accepted the concept of 'responsibility to protect,' “which means each government has the responsibility to protect its people from genocide, ethnic-cleansing, gross and systematic violations of human rights.”
When a government fails, he said, the international community has the right to step in and assist. “We now have to redeem that solemn pledge that was made only last September,” he said. “I would urge the Sudanese authorities to reconsider and work with the international community and accept the forces. We are going in to help. We have no other ambition than that.”
Mr. Annan pointed out that the UN currently has 10,000 troops from all over the world deployed in South Sudan to support a peace agreement that ended a separate conflict there. “We work peacefully with their consent and cooperation and I hope we can do the same in Darfur,” he said.
These views echo those Mr. Annan expressed in a letter to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir last week. The Secretary-General wrote that only an impartial peacekeeping force like the proposed expansion of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), currently deployed to help implement an accord that ended fighting in the country's South, would have the resources and capacity to effectively support the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) signed by the Government and some of the region's rebel groups in May.
In the letter, Mr. Annan also expressed alarm over the recent deployment of large numbers of Sudanese troops in Darfur, which UN officials have called an apparent sign that the Government is determined to pursue a major military offensive there soon.