Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced concern over the deterioration in relations between Chad and Sudan, further destabilizing the already volatile Darfur region.
Despite the agreement signed by the two countries in early May, Mr. Ban said that the previous two months in Darfur were characterized by an escalation of violence along the border with Chad, and an incursion by Chadian national forces into the area.
“This escalation of violence is particularly troubling as it followed the renewed commitments by both States to seek dialogue and re-establish diplomatic ties,” he wrote in his latest report on the joint UN-African Union operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
Underscoring that peaceful relations between Chad and the Sudan are a prerequisite to peace in Darfur, the Secretary-General urged both Governments to refrain from any act that may lead to heightened tensions and to meet the commitments made in the Doha Agreement on 3 May 2009 and the Dakar Agreement on 13 March 2008.
Mr. Ban also condemned the armed clashes which erupted in North Darfur during the reporting period, initiated by elements of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) against the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi (SLA/MM), a pro-Government faction, supported by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).
A 24 May attack on the SAF Umm Baru camp left at least 53 people seriously injured needing evacuation for medical treatment, and around 350 civilians – mainly women, children and the elderly – and 100 unarmed Sudanese soldiers and members of the SLA/MM took refuge at the base near the scene of the violence.
Reviewing UNAMID’s operations for the months of March and April in a region where more than six years of fighting between the Government, allied militia and rebel groups have led to over 300,000 deaths and uprooted over 2.7 million people, Mr. Ban puts the mission’s current deployment at some 13,455 out of a total authorized strength of 19,555, or at 68 per cent.
He stated that the “continued lack of key military enabling units,” such as 18 medium utility helicopters, as well as transport and aerial reconnaissance units, continue to be a concern.
Mr. Ban noted that although the immediate impact of expulsion of over a dozen humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from Sudan had been somewhat mitigated, he was concerned that pre-expulsion levels of aid delivery had not been restored.
On 4 March, Khartoum kicked out 13 international NGOs and revoked the permits of three local groups providing emergency relief assistance in Darfur after the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the region.
Mr. Ban noted the voluntary appearance of Bahr Idriss Abu Garda, commander of the United Resistance Front in Darfur, before the ICC in mid-May, in response to charges of war crimes committed in 2007 against the AU mission in the Sudan, and commended the Court for ensuring accountability for crimes against peacekeepers.
The need to find a viable political solution to Darfur has never been more urgent, he said with the Sudan-wide elections slated for February 2010, and the challenge of ensuring meaningful representation of all Sudanese in the electoral process.
However, the main parties “continue to choose violence over compromise and have demonstrated an overall lack of will or capacity to resolve this conflict alone,” said Mr. Ban.