The situation in Darfur remains precarious amid intermittent clashes, inter-communal violence, and a dire humanitarian crisis, the top United Nations peacekeeping official said today, as he delivered a sobering assessment of the region’s security and stability to the UN Security Council.
In a briefing to the Council, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, described a tenuous scenario in the Sudanese region of Darfur with ramped-up hostilities between Government forces and armed movements, “deadly” inter-communal conflicts and a precipitous rise in criminality and banditry.
All this, he said, has had a significant impact on civilians across the region’s five states and has hampered the effort of the UN-African Union hybrid mission in Darfur’s (UNAMID) to keep the peace.
“This insecurity as well as the persistent restrictions imposed by Government forces, armed movements and militia groups continued to challenge the ability of the Mission to implement its mandate, particularly as regards the protection of civilians, as well as posing a threat to the safety and security of United Nations and humanitarian personnel,” Mr. Ladsous said.
The Under-Secretary-General’s remarks accompany a report issued to the 15-member Council which provides a bleak outlook regarding the on-the-ground situation. In particular, it details a total of 55 recorded cases of violence and attacks against civilians, with 16 of them allegedly perpetrated by Arab militias, 23 by Government forces, and another 16 by unknown armed elements.
“The reporting period continued to highlight deep concerns relating to the lack of direct access to vulnerable populations in need of protections,” he continued. “Free and unhindered access to communities in need remains a critical concern for UNAMID’s ability to effectively implement its mandate, with frequent and numerous restrictions of movement having been imposed by the Government and armed movements on the basis of security concerns.”
Mr. Ladsous’ remarks come amid allegations of a mass rape of 200 women in Tabit, located in North Darfur. UNAMID recently declared it had initiated an investigation in the area but said its team had found no evidence confirming the claims and received no information regarding the purported acts. Village community leaders, meanwhile, reiterated to UNAMID that they “coexist peacefully” with local military authorities in the area.
Nevertheless, the UN official said, the team’s findings remain “inconclusive and require further investigation,” due to the heavy presence of military and police found in the village.
“Only an independent investigation by UNAMID will address the concerns over these serious allegations and [I] therefore urge the Government of Sudan to grant UNAMID immediate and independent access to Tabit and its population so that these reports can be verified.”
Amid the continuing violent attacks against “blue helmets” and other UN personnel which, along with a similarly worrying rise in criminality, including rape, hijackings and abductions, had prompted “deep concern” within the Organization’s peacekeeping apparatus, Mr. Ladsous also highlighted the dire humanitarian situation across Darfur, which has led to widespread internal displacement.
According to UN estimates, the number of people displaced by conflict has increased to more than 430,000 since the beginning of the year, with close to 300,000 remaining in displacement in addition to the more than two million long-term internally displaced persons, or IDPs.
The Under-Secretary-General told the Council that as UNAMID streamlined its operations, it remained focused on its three strategic priorities for the upcoming 2014-2016 biennium, including mediation between the Government and non-signatory armed movements on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur; the provision of support, in conjunction with the UN Country Team, to the mediation of community conflict, including through measures to address its root causes; and the protection of civilians, the facilitation of the delivery of humanitarian assistance and the safety and security of humanitarian personnel.
Meanwhile, returning to the current humanitarian situation, Mr. Ladsous said UNAMID continued to work closely with humanitarian agencies to facilitate the delivery of assistance to vulnerable communities around the region.
The UN has repeatedly called on all sides to join negotiations aimed at achieving a permanent ceasefire and comprehensive peace for the people of Darfur, which has witnessed fighting since 2003.
For its part, UNAMID, formally established in 2007, has been mandated to protect civilians, support humanitarian assistance, monitor and verify implementation of agreements, contribute to the promotion of human rights and the rule of law, and assist in the political reconciliation following the 2003 civil war between the Government of Sudan and militias and other armed rebel groups.