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UN, African Union envoys arrive in Sudan in bid to revive Darfur peace process

UN, African Union envoys arrive in Sudan in bid to revive Darfur peace process

Salim Ahmed Salim (L) and Jan Eliasson
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur and his African Union (AU) counterpart have arrived in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on their joint five-day mission to try to re-energize the stalled peace process in the war-torn region.

Jan Eliasson and the AU’s Salim Ahmed Salim are scheduled to hold meetings in Khartoum – and then later in Darfur itself – with both signatories and non-signatories to last year’s Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA), according to a joint statement released today.

During their talks Mr. Eliasson and Dr. Salim will stress the urgent need for an end to the political and humanitarian crisis engulfing Darfur, where at least 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others displaced from their homes since 2003.

The envoys “will be delivering a strong message,” their statement said, including on the need for a cessation of hostilities so that humanitarian operations can take place and the suffering of civilians can be alleviated. An estimated 4 million people across the vast and impoverished region now depend on aid for survival.

Mr. Eliasson and Dr. Salim have repeatedly emphasized that a tangible reduction in violence is vital to create the conditions necessary for serious and all-inclusive political dialogue to take place that includes both signatories and non-signatories to the DPA.

Many of the rebel groups that have fought Government forces and allied militias in Darfur since 2003 did not sign the DPA last May, and fighting has raged on since then, with widespread fears that the conflict could spill over into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Last month Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the situation in Darfur as “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”

As the envoys are visiting Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Acting Special Representative to the country, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, is travelling to Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to participate in the AU meeting on Sudan and Chad.

A separate UN Human Rights Council fact-finding team is also in the region, travelling to Addis Ababa, Khartoum and Darfur to evaluate the situation.

The high-level mission has been tasked with assessing human rights in Darfur, which has witnessed countless instances of abuses, among them mass rape, abduction and forced relocation since fighting began in 2003.

Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reported today that fresh violence in South Darfur since December has displaced at least 110,000 people from the area around Deribat.

In North Darfur, the Mission called for the resumption of humanitarian operations around Tawila, which had been vacated by UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) because of recent instability.