Reporting that the Sudanese Government and one of the main rebel factions in Darfur had just reached agreement on an agenda for negotiating a comprehensive peace in the restive western region of Sudan, a senior United Nations peacekeeping official told the Security Council that notwithstanding that positive development, the international community must ensure that all parties -- including armed groups outside the peace process -- remained committed to achieving a durable solution.
Edmond Mulet, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping operations announced the breakthrough in the negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the Mohamed Bashar faction of the Justice and Equality Movement, just before wrapping up his briefing on the latest political, security and humanitarian developments in the region. The briefing also heard a detailed presentation from Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman, Permanent Representative of Sudan to the United Nations.
Mr. Mulet, who also updated the Council on developments since the issuance in early January of the Secretary-General's report on the work of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) (document S/2013/22), said that the negotiations had begun in Doha, Qatar, on 20 January and were being facilitated by Deputy Joint Chief Mediator, Aïchatou Mindaoudou Souleymane, and the State of Qatar. The parties were expected to sign a framework agenda that would set the parameters for negotiations on the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. That Document was finalized at the All Darfur Stakeholders Conference in May 2011, in Doha. On 14 July 2011, the Government of Sudan and the Liberation and Justice Movement signed a protocol agreement committing themselves to the Document, which now serves as the framework for the comprehensive peace process in Darfur
Full implementation of the provisions of the Document required conducting consultations and political dialogue within Darfur, which should provide an opportunity to address the root causes of conflict and contribute to improving the security situation on the ground. He said that the international community must provide full support so that all parties, including the Government of Sudan, the Regional Authority of Darfur, and armed movements -- both inside and outside the peace process -- remained focused on the necessity of arriving at a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
Meanwhile, on earlier political developments, he said that from 10 to 14 January, the mediation team had organized a capacity-building workshop to assist the Justice and Equality Movement delegation. UNAMID had provided experts to support mediation efforts, particularly on matters dealing with the ceasefire agreement, security arrangements and gender matters. On implementation of the Document, he said that following the appointment of 46 of the 67 members of the Council of the Regional Authority for Darfur in October 2012, that body had been formally inaugurated on 16 January in Nyala. That Council would be chiefly responsible for evaluating the performance of the Regional Authority, guaranteeing that it was well managed and reviewing laws having to do with its responsibilities.
During the inauguration, senior Sudanese Government officials had reiterated Khartoum's commitment to the Darfur peace process and had also announced a parliamentary allocation of some $181 million to support relevant activities. He also said that the Joint Assessment mission had finalized its evaluation of economic development and needs for poverty eradication ahead of the donors conference. In that regard, on 25 December 2012, President Omer Hassan A. al-Bashirhad issue a decree establishing a committee that would review the conditions under which humanitarian organizations were working in Sudan. UNAMID and humanitarian partners were nevertheless awaiting improvements in the humanitarian access on the ground.
Turning to challenges, he said that he was seriously concerned about the increase in hostilities between the Government and armed movements, as well as by rising inter-communal violence taking place in some parts of Darfur, and the associated impact on civilian populations. Along with a spate of recent military clashes, he said that sources in the local community had reported that on 31 December 2012, Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid forces had ambushed a Government military convoy near Guldo, resulting in the capture of Government military vehicles and military casualties. Fighting reportedly continued in that area throughout the first week of January, including, local sources said, bombing by Sudanese army aircraft.
Throughout the period, the access of UNAMID and humanitarian organizations to Golo and Guldo remained obstructed by both Government and armed movement forces. He said that humanitarian agencies had verified the arrival of some 5,000 displaced to Nertiti, and UNAMID had facilitated needs assessment and had transported emergency aid to that town.
He went on to say that inter-communal violence had flared in early January when the Beni Hussean tribe and Aballa camel herding tribes had clashed in Jebel Amer, North Darfur, over access to a gold mine administered by the Beni Hussein. Up to 100 people had been killed, 47 injured and an estimated 25 villages had been destroyed. Some 60,000 civilians had been displaced to Kabkabiya, 8,000 to Saraf Umra and 25,000 more to E1 Sereif. He said that several thousand displaced mine workers had been transported by Government authorities to their place of origin.
Continuing, he said that 13 and 14 January, UNAMID and humanitarian agencies had conducted needs assessment in areas of displacement. Thereafter, the mission had transported aid and provided security escorts to humanitarian agencies for the delivery of more than 44 tons of urgently needed non-food items. Following intervention by Government authorities and UNAMID, tribal leaders declared a ceasefire on 17 January and had committed to a reconciliation conference, planned for April. Nevertheless, sporadic clashes between the tribes continued in Jebel Amer, including just last week, in and around Foro Baranga in central Darfur. UNAMID would continue to conduct confidence-building patrols to affected areas and to engage with traditional leaders and Government authorities to stabilize the security situation.
Turning to the safety and security of UNAMID and humanitarian personnel, he said he was pleased to report that on 2 January, with the support of the Sudanese Government, the two UNAMID uniformed police personnel who had been abducted in Kabkabiya, North Darfur, on 20 August 2012, had been released unharmed after 136 days in captivity. "We continue to urge the Government to hold the kidnappers, as well as the perpetrators of other attacks against UNAMID and humanitarian personnel accountable," he said, noting that he was also relieved to report that three UNAMID national staff members arrested on 24 and 25 December by national security forces in Nyala had been released on 22 January. All charges against them had been dropped, he said, but he nevertheless urged the Sudanese Government to respect the immunities afforded United Nations personnel working in Darfur.
On the overall security, he said that the situations in some areas of Darfur, particularly in the West of Djebel Marra areas, and in North Darfur, had deteriorated since his last briefing to the Council. In light of the prevailing challenges, UNAMID, in an effort to reinforce its civilian protection measures in those areas, had strengthened its early warning and rapid response capacities.
Concluding his presentation, Mr. Mulet said that achieving the goal of comprehensive and durable peace in Darfur required the Sudanese Government to deal in a holistic manner with the issues of economic and political marginalization, which affected not just Darfur, but the whole of Sudan. Further, it was critical that all parties, including the Government and all armed movements throughout the region, must cease hostilities and commit to resolve their differences through peaceful dialogue.
Taking the floor next, Ambassador Osman noted that the Secretary-General, in his report, had stated clearly that security and stability had prevailed in Darfur's five provinces and that implementation of the Doha peace accord was on track. After the Darfur interim authority had assumed its responsibility, it was managed by the people in Darfur themselves, and it had launched several projects, including in the areas of refugee resettlement, and economic reconstruction and recovery schemes. Preparations were also under way for the donors' conference on Darfur, and steps had been completed to appoint members to the Darfur regional council; several seats were left vacant in anticipation of the participation of representatives of groups and movements expected to join the Doha accord. Doha was currently hosting a meeting to pave the way for that decision.
Indeed, implementation of the Doha Document, especially in terms of justice and reconciliation, had progressed, he said, citing as examples the start of operations of the Office of the National Special Prosecutor for Darfur, which had already opened investigations into 10 cases pertaining to crimes committed in Darfur over the past few years. "This is a good start," he said. Those cases concerned, among others, attacks on peacekeepers and humanitarian workers, including the attack on a UNAMID caravan in October 2012, for which many suspects had been detained. In other developments, he noted joint efforts by his Government and the Darfur Regional Authorities Voluntary Return Commission to resettle the population from the camps, as security and stability warranted.
However, he said, the report contained some inaccuracies, especially in terms of civilian protection and, in many instances, it noted renewed clashes between Government forces and rebel movements that had not signed the Doha Document. Most of those incidents, however, were strictly tribal clashes, where the Government had only intervened to maintain order and enforce State authority, as well as help with tribal reconciliation by coordinating with elders and tribal chiefs. The bloody confrontations mentioned by Mr. Mulet in northern Darfur were no more than an armed engagement between two tribes over areas traditionally used for gold mining. The Secretary-General's report stated that the Sudanese armed forces had shelled a gold mine; that was simply not true.
That incident, he continued, had confirmed that the root causes of the Darfur conflict had concerned land and would persist given the competition over resources. What started as competition over land, water and grazing areas was now about precious metals, such as gold. The report also outlined the extent of cooperation that UNAMID had received by the central and provincial authorities, and it notes that all of the mission's requests -- 3,938 -- to conduct aerial flights had been approved by the Sudanese Government, with a few exceptions where the authorities determined that the mission might be in danger given the presence of some military activity on the rebel side.
He said his Government was willing to continue its cooperation with UNAMID in all aspects of its duties, to guarantee the country's security and unity, but he hoped that all members would abide by the Charter-based principle of neutrality. Anyone proven to be involved in any threat to the security of the country would be denied entry into the country. With that, he reaffirmed that the Security Council must take all necessary, stern and urgent measures against those who rejected peace and who sought to obstruct implementation of the Doha accord. He hoped to see more and stronger messages to the armed rebel groups, which he expected to be sanctioned by the Security Council.
Further, he stressed the importance for the Council to dissociate itself immediately from rebel movements in Sudan and Darfur, and anyone who rejected the Darfur Document. Those movements continued to conduct military operations in the border area and were launching attacks from South Sudan, which continued to sponsor those rebel movements and furnish them with logistical and political support, in blatant violation of the Charter and Security Council resolution 2046 (2012), whose main demand was an immediate halt to any support of those movements by any country.
While his Government strove to arrive at peaceful solutions, there were some working to obstruct those efforts, he said, noting the destructive role played recently by Uganda when it hosted a meeting in Kampala on 5 January for the coalition of armed rebel groups against the Sudanese Government. That meeting included the movements of Darfur, as well as the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement and other political factions, to which Uganda had given its support. He had sent the Council's details of the meeting and asked it to hold Uganda fully responsible for placing obstacles in the path to peace in Darfur. The same applied to peace with South Sudan, he added.
Source: UN Department of Public Information, News and Media Division