Against the backdrop of renewed military confrontation, the political process to resolve the conflict in Darfur through dialogue remains fragmented with limited progress, the United Nations peacekeeping chief today informed the UN Security Council.
“Major armed movements and opposition parties continue to boycott the current national dialogue framework,” the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, told the 15-member body during a briefing on the situation in Sudan’s strife-torn region.
Since the last report submitted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in December, fighting has resumed in the Jebel Marra area, with clashes in the west and north of Darfur marking the end of a brief lull in the civil war, which the UN estimates has killed tens if not hundreds of thousands of Darfuris and displaced nearly two million since 2003.
In the north, where villages were recently attacked by Arab militias, troops from the African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) were shot at twice – once by the Sudan Liberation Movement/Abdul Wahid faction while trying to recover a stolen UN World Food Programme (WFP) truck, and a second time by Arab militias while protecting a top UN official during a trip to Anka.
“The security situation limited an inter-agency relief mission to Anka, and humanitarian assistance had to be delivered by airdrops,” Mr. Ladsous said.
Meanwhile, to the south of El Geneina, 5,000 people have reportedly been displaced due to deadly violence, but neither the UN nor humanitarian partners has been able to confirm this figure due to Sudanese authorities blocking their access to the area.
“Despite the extension of the unilateral cease-fire by President [Omar al] Bashir in the region of Jebel Marra, incidents occurred, aerial bombardments resumed, and clashes between governmental forces and the Sudan Liberation Movement/Abdul Wahid intensified in January,” the UN peacekeeping chief underscored.
He added that a dozen bombs were reported in North and Central Darfur and that fighting between Government forces and Abdul Wahid rebels resulted in victims, but the number could not be verified, again due to lack of access. Mr. Ladsous did however report that 7,900 civilians, mainly women and children, have sought refuge around the UNAMID camp at Sortoni in North Darfur.
With respect to the Darfur peace process, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi faction held a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister of Qatar on 11 January in Paris. They pledged to develop a joint position paper on their concerns with respect to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), which forms the basis for a permanent ceasefire and comprehensive peace agreement to end the fighting.
An informal meeting between the Government and the two groups started in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia, on 23 January, but the parties reportedly remain divided on the role of the DDPD and an African Union implementation panel.
“It is regrettable that Abdul Wahid has been absent from these talks and we call upon him to participate constructively in the efforts to find a resolution to the conflict,” Mr. Ladsous stressed.
He also voiced his regret that the visa situation remains precarious, “with no major improvement in its overall status.” Since the last report to the Security Council, the Government rejected another seven visa requests, including four involving substantive civilian functions and one for the post of Senior Joint Operations Officer.
“The resultant loss of capacities in those sections directly related to the strategic priorities of UNAMID, such as the Protection of Civilians, is particularly concerning, in light of the evolving situations in the Jebel Marra and other areas,” he explained.
Concluding his remarks, he reiterated his concern about the impact of the renewed upsurge in fighting on civilians, and expressed his hope that the cessation of hostilities negotiations will come to a “positive conclusion” and bring to an end the suffering of people caught in the fighting.