Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged all sides to the Darfur conflict to refrain from hostilities as the United Nations tries to verify “troubling reports” of aerial bombings by Sudanese military forces and renewed fighting in recent days across the war-torn region.
The joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, has received reports this week that Sudanese military planes bombed an area near Kutum, a town in North Darfur state. Fresh clashes have also been reported in the area around Tine in West Darfur and along the border with Chad.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said he takes the reports very seriously and he “calls on all parties to refrain from hostilities, to respect the spirit of the ceasefire recently declared by the Government of Sudan and to cooperate with UNAMID in investigating these reports.”
Last week Khartoum announced an immediate ceasefire between its forces and the many rebel movements in Darfur, where fighting has raged since 2003 and led to the intervention of UNAMID to quell the violence and humanitarian suffering.
An estimated 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur over the past five years because of fighting between rebels and Government forces, while another 2.7 million people had to flee their homes.
The Sudanese military has been supported by militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, who have been accused of human rights abuses in their attacks on villages and other civilian targets.
The UN and AU’s Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, Djibril Bassolé, is in the region this week as part of his efforts to try to re-energize the peace process.
While in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur and the headquarters of UNAMID, Mr. Bassolé has met with the leadership of the United Resistance Front (URF), a rebel group, and with Minni Minawi, a leader of a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/M) and now an Assistant to the Sudanese President.
Meanwhile, the latest report of the Panel of Experts established by the Security Council to monitor the arms embargo in Darfur details how all parties to the conflict continue to carry out “flagrant violations” of the embargo.
“Within Darfur the actions of all sides make it clear that a military solution to the conflict has been chosen over any substantive engagement in peace talks,” the panel wrote. “Attempts to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table or to broker ceasefires have failed.
“The Darfur armed groups have further fragmented and insecurity continues to increase and is largely unaddressed. Offensive military over-flights continue with impunity and both the major armed groups and the Sudanese army have continued to carry out attacks.”
The panel recommends that the Security Council consider widening the embargo’s coverage to include the entire territory of Sudan and neighbouring Chad and northern Central African Republic (CAR) as well.
The group of experts also called for UNAMID and other peacekeeping or protection forces operating in the region to be given a more robust mandate and greater resources to better enforce the embargo, and for the panel’s capacity itself to be enhanced so that it can conduct more in-depth investigations into alleged violations.