Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed the extension of the African Union Mission currently deployed in Darfur, Sudan, until the end of the year, but reiterated the need for a United Nations peacekeeping operation to help restore peace and stability in the war-torn region, a step so far rejected by the Government.
In a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Annan stressed that additional funding for the mission, known as AMIS, is urgently required for it to function effectively during its new mandate in a region where UN officials estimate over 400,000 people have lost their lives and some 2 million more have been driven from their homes in three years of fighting between the Sudanese Government, allied militias and rebel forces.
“The United Nations will move forward urgently to assist the AU Mission in the areas of logistical and material support, military staff support and advisory support to civilian police, as well as civilian support in the areas of mine action, public information and implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement,” the statement said.
The Secretary-General emphasized that the continued presence of a strong AMIS has an important role to play in protecting civilians and improving a deteriorating security situation.
“He stresses once again that there can be no military solution to the crisis in Darfur, and that a multi-dimensional United Nations peacekeeping operation in Darfur can have a significant and positive role in helping the Sudanese people to restore peace and stability to that troubled region.”
In a speech to the UN General Assembly’s annual debate in New York on Tuesday, Sudanese President Omer al-Bashir rejected a proposed UN force as an attempt to re-colonize his country, criticizing last month’s Security Council resolution to deploy more than 17,000 peacekeepers in the region where UN officials warn that a man-made humanitarian catastrophe is looming.
The under-equipped and under-manned AMIS was due to end its mission on 30 September but the AU Peace and Security Council yesterday extended its mandate until 31 December.
Mr. Annan’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, today welcomed the decision since it means there will be no security vacuum at the end of the month. Speaking at a press conference, he also called for tranquillity during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Sudan said it had received reports from the AU that one of its vehicles with four of its monitors on board was ambushed in Um Barunga, near Tawilla in North Darfur yesterday. No injuries were reported, and the vehicle was later found.
A UN humanitarian assessment team visited Deribat, north of Nyala in North Darfur on Tuesday, following fighting there earlier this month. They identified water and health supplies as the items needed most urgently by residents.