Darfur conflict threatens to enter new cycle of violence – top UN official
The Darfur conflict could lapse soon into another major cycle of violence and large-scale human displacement unless the parties retreat from their recent state of confrontation, the top United Nations peacekeeping official told the Security Council today.
Briefing Council members on the work of UNAMID, the hybrid UN-African Union mission in Darfur, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno said there has been “a deeply disturbing” recent deterioration in the security situation.
Last weekend’s attack by rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) members on Government forces on the outskirts of the capital, Khartoum, illustrated that the conflict – which has raged on and off since 2003 – had the potential to move beyond the borders of the Darfur region, which lies on Sudan’s western flank.
“We are very concerned that the movement of significant numbers of JEM fighters from Darfur all the way to Khartoum went undetected and took both UNAMID and the Government by surprise,” Mr. Guéhenno said.
“The incident underscores the serious shortfalls in the Mission’s resources, especially aerial reconnaissance capabilities.”
UNAMID has received unconfirmed reports that members of another Darfurian rebel group, the Unity faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA), are gathering to attack El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state and the headquarters of the peacekeeping operation. There are also reports that elements of JEM and Chadian armed groups are assembling in West Darfur.
In the past six weeks, Sudanese armed forces have bombed rebel positions, including villages inhabited by civilians, violence has erupted between different rebel groups and banditry targeted UN staff and equipment has increased.
The Under-Secretary-General said these developments threaten efforts by the UN and AU Special Envoys to bring the warring parties in Darfur together for peace talks and could lead to a rapid intensification of the proxy war between neighbours Sudan and Chad.
Speaking later to reporters, he warned that thousands of people could be forcibly displaced from their homes in the next few months unless all sides pull back from violence. 150,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have already fled their homes in Darfur this year alone.
In total, more than 2.7 million people have become displaced because of the fighting between rebels, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen and another 300,000 are estimated to have died, either through direct combat or disease, malnutrition or reduced life expectancy.
“Our great concern is [ensuring] that it doesn’t lead to further escalation,” he said, referring to the recent attacks near the capital and the deteriorating security situation. “It’s really essential now that all actors move away from the brink of going into another cycle of violence. Humanitarian law has to be respected by everybody.”
He also stressed the value of sending a message that political goals are not going to be achieved by the use of force, and will only be accomplished through dialogue.
Mr. Guéhenno told reporters that while he welcomed the unanimous support from Council members for an enhanced deployment plan for UNAMID, which currently has well below half of the planned 26,000 uniformed personnel in place, it was important for UN Member States, donors and others to back that support with actual troops and real political will.
Otherwise, he said, the mission will not have the capabilities to provide practical benefits for the suffering people of Darfur, especially those who have fled their homes and live in organized or makeshift camps.