The new head of United Nations peacekeeping today paid his first visit to one of the 16 field operations worldwide, choosing the largest -- the joint African Union-UN mission (UNAMID) in the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur.
Hervè Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, met with senior local officials, members of civil society and UNAMID staff as he travelled around the north of the vast and arid region on Sudan''s western flank.
Mr. Ladsous and Ibrahim Gambari, the AU-UN Joint Special Representative to Darfur and the head of UNAMID, visited the North Darfur town of Shangil Tobaya to meet with community leaders, with whom they discussed development issues, particularly education and access to water.
The Under-Secretary-General also met North Darfur' wali or governor, Osman Mohamed Yousuf Kibir, and representatives of civil society in El Fasher, the state capital and the headquarters of UNAMID.
He stressed that the peace process must be a Darfurian-led process and emphasized that the UN''s efforts were aimed at making the process as inclusive as possible.
Darfur has been wracked by violence and suffering since 2003, when rebel groups began fighting with Government forces and allied militiamen. As many as 300,000 people have been killed since then and 2.7 million others forced from their homes, while efforts to bring peace have been complicated by the splintering of some of the rebel groups.
Mr. Ladsous told UNAMID personnel today that the mission had nevertheless made "remarkable achievements" to both reduce overall violence in Darfur and boost support for humanitarian assistance.
"When we remember the horrors and violence of seven years ago and look at the situation now, I think you can be proud -- of your compassion, your energy and your sacrifices," he said.