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Annan urges end to attacks near Central African Republic’s border with Darfur, Sudan

Annan urges end to attacks near Central African Republic’s border with Darfur, Sudan

Kofi Annan
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today decried the growing violence near the Central African Republic’s border with the strife-torn Darfur region of Sudan, while the top UN human rights official warned that attacks in West Darfur could intensify unless the Khartoum Government curbs and disarms militias there.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about worsening security conditions in north-eastern Central African Republic on the border with Sudan’s Darfur region,” his spokesman said in a statement issued in New York.

Warning that the situation continues to deteriorate amid ongoing rebel attacks in different parts of the country and the recent violent seizure of Birao, he called for the immediate end to the occupation of that city so that humanitarian and security conditions can be alleviated for civilians living in the area.

“The Secretary-General stresses the urgent need to find a comprehensive solution to the security problems along the borders of Chad, the Central African Republic and Sudan,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in a statement that over the past month, West Darfur has witnessed intensified movements and consolidation of armed militias, especially in the northern and south-western part of the state. At the same time, there are increased reports of the distribution of weapons to these groups in Geneina and outlying areas.

“I am deeply concerned that if the Government of Sudan does not take control of the militias, disarm them, and put an end to the proliferation of arms, the militias will continue to launch attacks on civilians, as they did on 29 October in an area south and west of Jebel Moon,” she said. Over 50 civilians were killed and thousands of others displaced during that incident.

Soon after that attack, Mr. Annan called for the authorities to prevent such atrocities and protect civilians – demands that Ms. Arbour echoed in a report on the killings issued by her office last week.

The report also called for an investigation into the Jebel Moon attacks. Today, she said it was encouraging that the Governor of West Darfur had begun such a probe.

“An impartial, transparent, and timely inquiry is needed to send a message that attacks against civilians are unacceptable. We will observe the process of investigation closely and hope it will lead to justice.”

Militia attacks on civilians and aid workers, burning of houses and crops are taking place everyday throughout the whole of strife-torn Darfur, the UN has reported, and today the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) expressed serious concern about the Norwegian Refugee Council having to withdraw from the region.

That Council “has played a key role in the largest and most difficult camp housing displaced persons in Darfur, the Kalma camp, and the largest IDP (internally displaced persons) concentration in the region which is located in the town of Gereida,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

Violence in Darfur has also spilled over into neighbouring countries, particularly Chad, and today the UN refugee agency said that a multi-agency mission had found that recent attacks on remote border villages by armed men on horseback have spread to other areas in the east of the country.

“We remain extremely concerned about the deteriorating security situation in the region and the effect it might have on our humanitarian operation,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson William Spindler told reporters in Geneva.

Yesterday, the agency estimated that these attacks may have killed more than 200 people in the past week, with dozens more wounded and many more forced to flee for safety. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres also reiterated calls for an international presence in eastern Chad and stronger Chadian efforts to maintain security in the area.

In a related development and as part of continuing UN efforts to end the bloodshed in Darfur, the Security Council has decided to send a mission to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to attend a consultative meeting on the troubled region on Monday, organized by the African Union. That mission will be led by Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of the United Kingdom. Assistant Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hédi Annabi, who left for Sudan yesterday, will also be attending, a spokesman said.

Some 200,000 people are estimated to have died in Darfur 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. However the Government has rejected the expansion of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to Darfur and at present the UN assists an African Union mission (AMIS) there.