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Darfur: UN envoy calls for cessation of hostilities on eve of force deployment

Darfur: UN envoy calls for cessation of hostilities on eve of force deployment

A senior United Nations envoy has issued an appeal for all sides to the Darfur conflict to cease their hostilities on the eve of the deployment of a hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID) to try to quell the violence and suffering in the war-wracked region of western Sudan.

Rodolphe Adada, the AU-UN Joint Special Representative for Darfur and the head of mission of AMIS, the current AU mission to the region, launched the appeal yesterday after holding talks with a senior Sudanese Government official in Khartoum.

Mr. Adada said a cessation of hostilities would help create an environment conducive to the success of the peace process between the Government and the many rebel groups in Darfur, where they have been fighting since 2003.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and another 2.2 million forced to flee their homes, living either as internally displaced persons (IDPs) or as refugees in neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR). UN officials have described Darfur as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

UNAMID is due to take over from AMIS next month but it is still lacking offers from UN Member States for key force capabilities, and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week that the gaps mean that the planned deployment – and its potential for success – is reaching a “critical point.”

Mr. Adada said an end to hostilities would also bring extra meaning to the people of Darfur during a time when Muslims are about to celebrate Eid al-Adha and Christians are preparing to mark Christmas.

Yesterday he met with Nafie Ali Nafie, the Assistant to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who said the Government was committed to the smooth transfer of authority from AMIS to UNAMID and to cooperating with the incoming mission so that it can carry out its mandate.

In their talks the two men also reviewed the preparations so far for the transition from AMIS to UNAMID and clarified the future functions of some AU mechanisms once the hybrid force takes over.