Following last week’s signing of a ceasefire between the Sudanese Government and a major rebel group, the joint United Nations-African Union mission in the war-ravaged Darfur region has announced that it plans to increase its capacity to monitor the agreement to end hostilities.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has hailed the pact reached in Doha, Qatar, between the Government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), calling it an “an important step towards an inclusive and comprehensive peace agreement” for Darfur, where nearly seven years of war between have killed at least 300,000 people and driven 2.7 million others from their homes.
His spokesperson, Martin Nesirky, told reporters today that the Mission, known as UNAMID, intends to set up mobile monitoring teams, which will liaise with the parties to the ceasefire, monitor the security situation and look into reports of violence.
“To achieve this, the Mission notes that it is crucial that its freedom of movement not be restricted,” he underscored.
The 23 February signing ceremony for the ceasefire was attended by Ibrahim Gambari, Joint Special Representative of the UN and the AU, who emphasized that “the conflict in Darfur cannot be resolved by military means, but only through an all-encompassing, inclusive political solution through a political agreement that would also involve Darfur’s civil society and other stake-holders.”
The agreement shows that “we are on the right track, although there are many other steps we all need to take towards an all-inclusive comprehensive peace agreement.”
But other rebel groups have still not signed agreements with the Government, and Mr. Gambari has urged them to join the peace process.
In a related development, UNAMID has trained 7,000 national police personnel across Darfur on elections, human rights and crowd management, ahead of next month’s historic elections, the first inclusive polls to be held for decades in Sudan and a major milestone in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended over 20 years of north-south strife.
Last week, a UN official voiced hope that the electoral process will continue to be peaceful and reflect the will of the Sudanese people, in spite of the challenges – including the size and landscape of the country, coupled with weak infrastructure in many parts of the nation – that remain.
“We have all recognized for some time the complexity of these elections,” Ray Kennedy, Chief Electoral Affairs Officer for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), said in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.
“Many aspects of the elections are new for voters, and especially so for the majority of voters who are taking part in multi-party elections for the first time in their lives,” he pointed out.
In spite of its meagre resources, the National Elections Commission (NEC) has displayed “admirable commitment” in its work to organize and conduct the polls, he said.
UNMIS, Mr. Kennedy underlined, does not have a role in observing or monitoring the polls, which falls to international and domestic observers; its part, rather, is to support its Sudanese counterparts “by sharing with them all our experience gained in electoral support missions all over the world.”