21 September 2006

Sudan: Darfur Peace Accord On Verge of Collapse - UN Envoy

Khartoum — A top United Nations envoy warned on Thursday that the Darfur peace agreement was on the verge of collapse and lambasted the Darfur Ceasefire Commission (CFC), which is responsible for monitoring and implementing the accord.

Jan Pronk, the UN Special Representative to the Secretary-General in Sudan, echoing comments made on Wednesday to the UN Security Council in New York, warned that the 5 May Darfur peace agreement, signed by the Sudanese government and one faction of the rebel Sudan Liberation Army, was floundering.

"The Darfur peace agreement is in [a] coma," Pronk told reporters in Khartoum. "It is nearly dead. This is an issue for great concern." Since the signing, new rebel alliances have formed and rebels in the region have fought each other, causing further displacement of civilians.

Pronk charged that the ceasefire commission had done little to stem increasing violence in the region and had not examined a plan by the Sudanese government to disarm militias known as janjaweed.

The commission is composed of representatives from the Sudanese government and the rebel faction of the Sudan Liberation Army led by Minni Minnawi, which signed up to the peace deal. Non-signatories have not been allowed to join up.

Pronk said the UN representative to the commission had been "silenced and sidelined" and said he would withdraw the UN representative from meetings.

"It's badly chaired," Pronk said. "Violations are not being addressed. [The] United Nations is being silenced in the CFC"

Pronk welcomed yesterday's decision by the African Union to remain in Darfur but said he hoped for increased financial and logistical support to bolster the mission, which has only 7,700 troops monitoring a remote area the size of France.

The AU voted to extend its mandate until the end of this year after Sudan refused to allow a UN force to replace the cash-strapped mission. Sudan had likened a UN force to colonisation.

The African Union Mission in Sudan said the AU Peace and Security Council had made the right decision.

"It was the right decision in order to avoid any vacuum," AU spokesman Noureddine Mezni said. "The other option would have been to terminate the mandate by the end of September with negative consequences on the ground. So it was the right decision."

The Darfur conflict began three years ago when rebels attacked government positions in the region, complaining that Darfur remained undeveloped due to neglect by the central government. Thousands have died and more than two million people have been displaced from their homes.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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