Pledging a message of “hope, peace, security… and water,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today met with some of the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur and held talks with the leaders of the imminent hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in the strife-torn Sudanese region.
Mr. Ban spoke with Rodolphe Adada, the Joint UN-AU Special Representative to Darfur and the head of the current AU mission to the region (known as AMIS), after arriving earlier today in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters. Mr. Adada will then head the hybrid force (UNAMID) once it takes over from AMIS at the end of this year.
Mr. Ban held talks as well with the current AMIS Force Commander, Maj.-Gen. Martin Agwai, who will also fulfil the same role with UNAMID, and both the Commander and Mr. Adada briefed the Secretary-General on the work of AMIS and the latest security developments in Darfur.
In July the Security Council authorized the creation of UNAMID to try to quell the fighting in Darfur, an impoverished and remote region on Sudan’s western flank. More than 200,000 people have been killed since 2003 because of fighting between rebel groups, Government forces and allied militia known as the Janjaweed. At least 2.2 million others have had to flee their homes, living either as IDPs within Sudan or as refugees in neighbouring countries.
During his visit to El Fasher, which followed earlier stops on this trip in the national capital, Khartoum, and the southern city of Juba, Mr. Ban also met the Wali (or Governor) of North Darfur.
He then went to a meeting at the El Fasher headquarters of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) with representatives of IDPs who had been self-selected from local camps.
When Mr. Ban arrived, according to a statement issued by his spokesperson, security precautions had to be taken when a group of uninvited people tried to force their way into the meeting. But after a brief delay the Secretary-General was able to resume his schedule and meet with the IDP representatives and with civil society groups and traditional leaders.
During a subsequent visit to the nearby Al Salim IDP camp, Mr. Ban – who received a warm welcome from thousands of IDPs at the camp – told the locals he brought with him a message of “hope, peace, security… and water.”
Sudan is the first leg of Mr. Ban’s current trip to Africa. He will then travel to neighbouring Chad and Libya.