Jan Pronk will continue to serve as the top United Nations envoy for Sudan until the end of the year, when his contract is set to expire, despite the Sudanese Government’s demand for his removal, but he will return to Khartoum next month to organize a smooth handover to an interim officer, a UN spokesman announced today.
“The Secretary-General has made it clear that he alone can decide on the tenure of his Special Representatives,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement. “However, he also realizes that at a critical time in the Darfur negotiations, it is important that we preserve a good working relationship with the Government of Sudan and he is certain the officer in charge, Taye Zerihoun, will be able to provide this.”
Mr. Annan protested against the Sudanese decision to President Omer Hassan al-Bashir and “has reiterated his full confidence in Jan Pronk,” the statement added.
Meeting later in the day, after hearing a briefing from Mr. Pronk, the Security Council fully backed Mr. Annan’s decision on his Special Representative, and also expressed very deep concern over the worsening humanitarian and security situation in the strife-torn Darfur region.
“Members of the Council deeply regretted the decision taken by the Sudanese Government to terminate the tenure of the SRSG (Special Representative of the Secretary-General) in the way it did. The Members of the Council fully support the actions taken by the Secretary-General’s statement made by him in this regard,” Council President for October, Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan, said in a press statement.
As Mr. Annan’s Special Representative, Mr. Pronk oversees the UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) set up in 2005 to support a peace agreement between the Government and rebel forces in Southern Sudan. In August this year the Security Council expanded its mandate to include deployment to the western Darfur region to support the “early and effective implementation” of a peace accord with some of the rebels there.
“Following ongoing consultations with the Sudanese authorities, it is expected that Mr. Pronk will return to Khartoum during November to organize an orderly handover to the Officer-in-Charge of the UN Mission, before returning to New York for debriefings and the completion of his mission,” Mr. Annan’s statement said.
Mr. Annan received a letter from the Sudanese Foreign Minister on Sunday, stating that the Government considered Pronk’s mission as “terminated” and requested his departure within 72 hours. Mr. Annan then asked the envoy to come to New York for consultations, which began yesterday and continued today.
After briefing the Council, Mr. Pronk told reporters that he was “very much” disappointed by Sudan’s decision, and reiterated that all his observations and writings on the country were based on first-hand experiences, adding that his views were balanced.
“My information to the Security Council or to the press is always based on my experiences on the ground and there’s nobody else who’s been on the ground as much and as intensive, as long as I have been.”
“My own assessment is that… my criticism of the fact that the Government continues to fight, to seek a military solution despite the fact that a ceasefire agreement had been signed… by the way, I was also critical of the violations of the ceasefire by the rebel movements,” he said, when asked why he believed Sudan’s Government wanted him expelled.
The Government has also rejected the expansion of UNMIS to Darfur, where at least 200,000 people are estimated to have died as a result of the conflict between Government forces, allied militias and rebels seeking greater autonomy, and more than 2 million others have been displaced. At present the UN assists an African Union mission in the region.
UNMIS has some 10,250 uniformed personnel in Sudan out of a total of up to 27,300 mandated when the Council expanded the mission.