United Nations and African Union officials today voiced deep concern at increasing violence affecting civilians in Sudan's Darfur region and the growing constraints on the international community's ability to help those affected.
Over the last month, a wave of violence has been under way in Darfur, affecting tens of thousands of people, according to a joint statement issued by Joseph Mutaboba, deputy head of the joint UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), and Ali Al-Za'tari, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan.
They noted that since the beginning of 2014, more than 215,000 people in Darfur have been displaced from their homes.
"Many people in Darfur have no choice but to flee their homes in fear," they stated. "It is particularly troubling that, in the face of this violence, the UN and the humanitarian community at large are being increasingly constrained from helping the majority of those affected."
Due to the access restrictions and security constraints placed on humanitarian agencies, even monitoring the numbers of people who have been displaced from their homes is increasingly challenging, they said.
"Enormous amounts of humanitarian need are being generated by this violence, but our ability to assess the condition of people who have been affected by the conflict and deliver to them the aid that they need has been severely hampered.
"We call upon the Government of Sudan and all actors and parties involved in the conflict and the international community to take robust measures to ensure the protection of civilians and unimpeded access of aid workers in Darfur."
Earlier this month, both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay voiced deep concern about the recent escalation of violence in Darfur and its impact on civilians in the region, and urged an immediate halt to hostilities.
UN officials have repeatedly called on all sides to join negotiations aimed at achieving a permanent ceasefire and comprehensive peace for the people of the strife-torn region, which has witnessed fighting since 2003 between rebel groups and Government forces and their allies, militiamen known as the Janjaweed.
To move the peace process forward, the AU-UN Joint Special Representative for Darfur, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, attended a gathering of Zaghawa leaders yesterday in neighbouring Chad that was designed to build consensus in getting the Darfur armed movements to join the peace process.
Mr. Chambas emphasized the need for all the parties in Darfur to commit to dialogue without preconditions and to resolve differences through political not military means. "There is imperative need to recognize that after 10 years of fighting and attendant bloodshed in Darfur, nobody has emerged victorious," he said. "The lesson from this is very clear and simple - parties have to unconditionally find each other across the negotiation table and talk, and reach agreements."
He added that the ongoing attacks on villages and camps for the internally displaced are "an ugly blemish" on efforts to spur dialogue, and that regardless of who is ultimately responsible for the violence, "it must now stop."
The Joint Special Representative and head of UNAMID also highlighted the need to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations. "Darfur has been experiencing one of the worst man-made humanitarian crises in the world," he said.
"Without enabling the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the multitudes of Darfuris who need it, our sincerity to finding a durable solution to the conflict is bound to flounder."