Ban Ki-moon to visit Sudan next week to ‘lock in’ progress towards Darfur peace
Mr. Ban told a press conference at UN Headquarters that he is visiting Sudan and some of its neighbours “to go and see for myself the very difficult conditions” under which the hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force will operate in Darfur from the start of next year.
That force, which will have some 26,000 peacekeepers at full deployment, was authorized last month by the Security Council after what Mr. Ban described as “many months of difficult diplomacy. Now we have an historic opportunity. We must seize it.”
At least 200,000 people have died and more than two million others forced to flee their homes since 2003 because of fighting between rebel groups, Sudanese Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias.
Mr. Ban stressed today that he wanted to know first-hand the plight that Darfurians are experiencing and to also try to strengthen momentum towards a lasting political resolution so that the violence and suffering can end.
“My goal is to lock in the progress we have made so far,” he said. “To build on it so that this terrible trauma may one day cease.”
He voiced deep concern about the apparent recent escalation of violence in Darfur, citing several attacks and bombardments in the past few weeks that have led to the deaths of hundreds of people, and he called on the Government and all parties to refrain from military action and to choose “the path of peace and political dialogue.”
Detailing his three-part strategy for Darfur, the Secretary-General said that the deployment of the new hybrid force – to be known as UNAMID – will require a massive logistical effort, especially in providing adequate communications, water, food, supplies and infrastructure for the mission.
“This is one of the largest and most complex field operations the United Nations has ever undertaken, together with the African Union, and the work is well under way. But it cannot succeed without the cooperation of the Government of Sudan,” Mr. Ban said, adding he would seek its full support when he meets with President Omar al-Bashir in the capital, Khartoum, during the trip.
In response to questions, Mr. Ban said he was concerned about Sudan’s reported expulsion of the Country Director of CARE, a large non-governmental organization (NGO) operating in Darfur, and two foreign diplomatic envoys and would raise this issue during his visit.
He emphasized that peacekeeping must be accompanied by a political solution to the crisis, and said his aim during the trip was to maintain the recent momentum among the parties for talks “with a view toward issuing invitations to a full-fledged peace conference by the end of summer.”
Mr. Ban said he hopes to announce a replacement to Jan Pronk as his Special Representative for Sudan before he leaves New York on this trip. In addition, when he returns he will co-chair – along with AU Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré – an Enlarged Contact Group meeting on Darfur on 21 September.
But he added that no political solution would work in the long run unless the region on Sudan’s western flank enjoys sustained economic development.
“There must be money for new roads and communications, as well as health, education, sanitation and social reconstruction programmes,” Mr. Ban said, issuing the call to the international community to help the Sudanese Government to organize these efforts.
Aside from Sudan, Mr. Ban is visiting Libya, where he said its leader Muammar Gaddafi has been a key regional player in trying to bring some of the Darfur parties to the negotiations table.
He will also travel to Chad, where the Security Council indicated yesterday it was willing to authorize a multidimensional UN presence to support a European Union force in the east of the country and in the Central African Republic (CAR), which have both been plagued by clashes between rebels and Government forces and by the spillover from the Darfur conflict.
During his tour of the region, Mr. Ban will also travel to Juba in southern Sudan to evaluate progress towards implementing the January 2005 comprehensive peace agreement that was designed to end the long-running separate civil conflict between the north and south of the country.
“Beyond Darfur, this remains an essential – and fragile – cornerstone of peace in Sudan,” he said, stating that a “more equitable sharing of power and resources among the central government and the country’s regions” is required so that fully representative national elections can proceed on schedule in 2009.