Darfur: ongoing violence thwarting peace prospects, say top UN officials

Darfur: ongoing violence thwarting peace prospects, say top UN officials

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Recent unrest in Chad and the ongoing violence in the war-ravaged Sudanese region of Darfur are impeding progress towards peace and will negatively affect the under-resourced hybrid peacekeeping operation known as UNAMID, top United Nations officials said in New York today.

Recent unrest in Chad and the ongoing violence in the war-ravaged Sudanese region of Darfur are impeding progress towards peace and will negatively affect the under-resourced hybrid peacekeeping operation known as UNAMID, top United Nations officials said in New York today.

"Over the last few months, the security and humanitarian situation in Darfur and the region has dramatically deteriorated, most recently through events related to Chad," Jan Eliasson, UN Special Envoy for Darfur, told the Security Council in an open meeting.

Clashes between the Sudanese Government and JEM/Khalil Ibrahim forces in West Darfur, in particular, are leading to a deteriorating security situation, which has been exacerbated by the recent violence in Chad, he added.

"These problems have been compounded by the slow deployment of UNAMID, undermining the chances to demonstrate to the people of Darfur that the international community is bringing security to them," the Envoy observed.

Despite the fact that some progress has been made towards bringing rebel groups to the negotiating table for peace talks, convening a preparatory meeting soon would be premature, he noted.

The "resolution of the Darfur crisis requires an environment conducive to peace," Mr. Eliasson stated, urging the cessation of hostilities in the region, where fighting has claimed 200,000 lives and forced 2.2 million others to flee their homes since 2003.

Also addressing the Council, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno underscored the impact of the violence on the humanitarian situation.

"In addition to prolonging the suffering of millions of civilians in the region and complicating the peace process, continued hostilities will have negative consequences for the deployment of UNAMID, and will distract the mission from implementing its mandate," he said.

Mr. Guehenno, who recently visited Sudan, emphasized that UNAMID, a hybrid UN-African Union (AU) operation, is "severely under-resourced for the tasks which it was mandated to perform."

It lacks the necessary troops, police and equipment, including military aircraft and ground transportation, to provide the necessary protection to Darfurians, he stressed.

Although UNAMID has been assessing ways to become effective given its limited resources, "the Mission will not be able to meet the high expectations of Darfur's civilians," the Under-Secretary-General pointed out. "This is particularly worrying since we risk losing their confidence if we are not able to make a positive difference in their lives."

Meanwhile, UNAMID Force Commander, General Martin Luther Agwai, today voiced his strong concern over reported Government attacks against villages north of Al Geneina in Western Darfur, with initial information indicating that many houses have been burned and lives lost. There have also been reports of aerial bombings in Silea village.

General Agwai, who also serves as Chairman of the Darfur Ceasefire Commission, called for the attacks to end immediately. "In addition to the loss of life and damage to property, there is the potential for displacement of large numbers of villagers, compounding an already critical humanitarian situation," he said.