Global perspective Human stories

Darfur: UN Special Envoy kicks off mission to Sudan

Darfur: UN Special Envoy kicks off mission to Sudan

Jan Eliasson
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur has embarked upon a mission to the war-torn Darfur region to push ahead with efforts to find a permanent solution to the conflict which has killed more than 200,000 people since 2003.

After a two-day stopover in Addis Ababa where he is scheduled to meet with the Chairperson of the African Union (AU), senior AU officials and members of the Ethiopian Government, Jan Eliasson will travel to Sudan to “discuss steps required to arrive at a durable solution to the situation in Darfur on the basis of the Darfur Peace Agreement” signed last May by the Government and some rebel groups, according to the spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Mr. Ban told the Security Council today he will intensify efforts to tackle problems in the western Sudanese region, where fighting has displaced more than 2 million people and left double that figure in need of humanitarian aid.

“One of my top priorities will be to step up efforts to address the crisis in Darfur, where the humanitarian situation is growing worse, despite all the declarations and proclamations of the international community over the past three years,” Mr. Ban said in his first address to the Council since becoming Secretary-General on 1 January.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) announced today said that in 2006, more than 450,000 people have been newly displaced from their homes, often for the first time. Despite the surge in the number of displaced people, UN access to the affected population has tumbled to 64 per cent, the lowest in more than two years.

Humanitarian efforts are being hindered because agencies lack access and there is no way to guarantee security for non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Approximately 130,000 people in the town of Gereida in South Darfur have been forced to leave their homes, yet security cannot be guaranteed for humanitarian organizations seeking to assist the displaced.

Meanwhile, in a related development today, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations held a meeting in New York with potential troop- and police-contributing countries to discuss the second phase of UN support for the AU mission (AMIS) in Darfur.

Currently, there are several dozen uniformed personnel in Darfur under the initial phase. The second phase involves fielding some 1,800 military personnel in specialized units such as transport, engineering, logistics and medical experts, as well as 300 police plus three Formed Police Units, each made up of approximately 125 officers. Vehicles and aircraft as well as information and communications equipment are also needed.

The overall aim is to deploy a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur, made up of 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers, compared to AMIS’ current strength of just 7,000.

Under an agreement with the Sudanese Government and the AU, priority will be given to contributors from Africa.