Secretary-General says resolving Darfur conflict will help entire Sudan

Secretary-General says resolving Darfur conflict will help entire Sudan

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Painting a generally grim picture of the two years since the signing of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended 21 years of civil war between the north and the south, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says resolving the conflict in Darfur could go a long way towards restoring trust in the deal.

In his latest report on Sudan to the Security Council, Mr. Ban writes that despite the CPA having been signed on 9 January 2005, “implementation has not progressed as effectively as was hoped.” In the most serious violation of the ceasefire since 2002, clashes last November in Malakal in Upper Nile state killed at least 150 people.

“The recent crisis in Malakal is a reminder that the hard-won Agreement is not yet stable or self-sustaining, but needs constant encouragement. Mistrust between the parties remains a serious obstacle, potential spoilers still exist and the war in Darfur has diverted international attention and support from implementation of the Agreement.

“A swift, peaceful resolution to the conflict in Darfur could go a long way towards restoring trust between the parties to the Agreement. Conversely, the longer the conflict drags on, the harder it will be to persuade the southern Sudanese that their best interests lie within a united Sudan.”

In Darfur, more than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others displaced since 2003 because of fighting between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy. About 4 million people depend on outside aid.

Mr. Ban said 2007 should be a “year of increased focus” on the Agreement, adding that sustained international support will be indispensable, as he also urged all Sudanese sides to give their full support to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in its efforts to assist them in implementing the deal.

“Both parties must cease using militias as proxy forces and make the integration of other armed groups a top priority… international support for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration mechanisms will continue to be critical to implementation,” he writes, referring to fighters from both sides.

Mr. Ban’s report was released as his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy and Deputy Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Rima Salah completed a week-long visit to Sudan, including Darfur, where they urged all parties to commit to ending child recruitment and to immediately release any children associated with their forces.

In another development, UNMIS strongly condemned the killing in North Darfur of a member of the Civilian Police of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) who was shot dead today by unknown armed men during a hijacking inside a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs). It also requested the release of an AMIS peacekeeper abducted on 10 December.

On Saturday, UNMIS will take part in joint operations to return up to 150,000 IDPs to their places of origin in southern Sudan and South Kordofan. Return operations for this year will be launched with the first convoy of displaced Sudanese set to leave Dar El Salam camp in the capital Khartoum.

UNMIS is working with the Government of National Unity, the Government of Southern Sudan and the International Organization on Migration (IOM).