Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for an “international presence” on Sudan’s border with Chad to prevent the bloody Darfur conflict from increasingly spilling over to its neighbour, stressing that the United Nations has also not given up on its plan to send peacekeepers to Darfur itself.
“You have cross-border attacks and we are looking at the possibility of putting UN observers or some international presence on the border and working with the Government of Chad to ensure that the refugees who are in Chad are protected and to ensure that cross-border attacks would also be minimized,” he told reporters in Nairobi.
“But we have not given up the idea of strengthening the force in Darfur because you need to do the two. If you abandon Darfur and try to strengthen the Chad side of the border, it is not going to work,” Mr. Annan added, shortly before leaving for Ethiopia where tomorrow he will co-host a high-level meeting on Darfur arranged with the African Union (AU).
At least 200,000 people are estimated to have been killed 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.
But the Government has rejected the expansion of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to the troubled region and at present the UN assists a 7,000-strong African Union mission (AMIS) and is currently working on a $21 million support package.
UNMIS today reported more militia attacks in South Darfur, with villages being burned and their inhabitants attacked by Arab nomads, while in West Darfur, international non-governmental organization (NGO) staff had to be evacuated from two camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) because of growing insecurity.
These are just the latest reports of daily violence that occurs throughout Darfur and which has also spread to the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR). Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, said yesterday that a UN fact-finding mission would visit Chad and the CAR next week.
In a related development, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland met today with senior Sudanese Government representatives in Khartoum, a UN spokesman told reporters in New York.
Tomorrow, Mr. Egeland is scheduled to travel to El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur, to meet with local leaders and NGO representatives. On Friday, he is scheduled to head to El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, before returning to Khartoum on Saturday.