New UN-African Union mediator for Darfur conflict takes up post

28 August 2008

The newly appointed chief of the joint United Nations-African Union effort to bring peace to Darfur arrived today in the conflict-wracked Sudanese region, pledging to consult as widely as possible with the warring parties to try to find a lasting solution.

Djibril Yipènè Bassolé, the Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, has assumed his duties in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state and the headquarters of the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force (known as UNAMID).

Speaking to reporters after his arrival, he stressed that any negotiations to resolve the five-year conflict that has killed an estimated 300,000 people and displaced 2.7 million others cannot take place in a climate of tension and mistrust.

“We have to put mechanisms in place that will not only allow a sustained ceasefire, but will also help avoid reoccurrence of violent incidents,” he said.

Mr. Bassolé said his priority was to hold talks with all the players on the ground in Darfur, where the number of rebel groups has splintered in the past year or so from a handful to around 30.

Rodolphe Adada, the head of UNAMID and the Joint Special Representative of the UN and the AU in the region, met with Mr. Bassolé today and promised that the mission would do everything it could to back his peace efforts.

Mr. Bassolé is slated to visit South Darfur and West Darfur over the next four days before returning to Khartoum, the national capital.

In an interview with UN Radio, he added that he hoped to bring his experiences from other peace processes and accords across West Africa to the situation in Darfur, where Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen have been fighting rebels since 2003.

“Here in Darfur, there are similarities, of course, because here you have people who seem to be marginalized, who want to be more developed, but the difficulty here is the interference and outside interference in the Darfur conflict. So it is a little bit complicated, but we will try.”

Asked about Monday’s deadly clashes involving Government security forces at the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Darfur, the Mediator said this incident illustrated the importance of talking to all parties to avoid such situations from occurring.

“Of course there is need for security on the ground, and also I think that we should avoid and be careful that people [do not] use the camps for fighting, arms and ammunition. This specific question should be a point for our negotiation and when I was in Khartoum yesterday I talked about this situation and this consequence. For the mediation, security will be the first point of our talks.”

Meanwhile, UNAMID Force Commander General Martin Luther Agwai visited the Zam Zam camp for IDPs in North Darfur, where he welcomed the recently arrived Egyptian engineering and signal company.


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News Tracker: Past Stories on This Issue

UN tries to rebuild confidence after deadly attack at displaced camp in Darfur

The head of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) set up meetings today with the residents of a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in a bid to ease tensions after dozens of people were shot dead there earlier this week during clashes with Sudanese security forces.