10 April 2014

Sudan: UN Radio Interview With UNAMID Joint Special Representative


The following is an interview conducted by UN Radio with Mr. Mohamad Ibn Chambas, the Joint Special Representative of the African Union - United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The interview took place in April 2014 at UN headquarters in New York.

We'll start the interview by asking about the recent Security Council Resolution; it endorsed the revised priorities of UNAMID. Some interpreted this as a confirmation of things improving on the ground, but others see it as a sign that there are many more challenges rising up. Which one is it?

The revised strategic focuses for the mission are, first, stepping up mediation to get a political agreement between the Government and the non-signatory movements; second, focusing of course on protection of civilians; and third, stepping up local-mediation efforts.

There have been a lot of inter-ethnic clashes in Darfur. This is a new dynamic. We need to take cognizance of that, and play a role in ending these conflicts and in facilitating peaceful coexistence in all the communities in Darfur. After 10 years of conflict in Darfur, it was necessary to step back and look at the situation and the mandates of the mission.

How do we reprioritize in order to have a better use of the mission to achieve results in these three areas of political mediation, protection of civilians and also local-level mediation? They remain, in my view, the critical priorities that we need to focus on; and I think the Security Council took the right decision.

On the ground, how will this resolution change how UNAMID works?

Well, obviously, we will have to intensify our efforts to get the Government and the movements to engage in direct talks. In that regard, we are pleased that the Government itself has announced an initiative for national dialogue. We have to support this process because, in many ways, the political issues of Sudan can only be resolved in a holistic manner, in an all-inclusive dialogue in which all Sudanese-political parties, civil society, and armed movements-sit down to discuss what has been the cause of the conflict in Sudan and in Darfur all these years, and how Sudanese, working together, can end it.

With regard to protection, we need to be more effective in ensuring that we are there when civilians are in danger. We are in Darfur to ensure their physical security; we are there to allow them to be able to continue their normal lives, even if the conflict has not completely been brought to an end.

Inter-communal disputes were the sources of most of the displacement in 2013-almost 400,000 newly displaced people. We played a role in facilitating local-level discussions, working with the Walis, the governors, at the state levels, and local authorities-the chiefs, Omdas and Sheikhs and others-to bring communities together, to discuss problems, and to see how they can live peacefully and share the resources of Darfur together.

What would you say the main reasons were for the insecurities in Darfur during the past year? Is it communal violence or disputes?

Yes, during the past year, in 2013, there's no question that the major source of insecurity was fighting between tribes. This was the principal source of new displacements and violence and insecurity. As I have indicated, more than 400,000 people were displaced as a result of this fighting, be it between the Beni Hussein and the Abbala in North Darfur or the Salamat and Misseria in Central Darfur, or in East Darfur between the Southern Reizegat and Ma'alia, all the competing over scarce resources.

It really posed a challenge. We worked with the State authorities; local authorities and tribal leaders, and successfully mediated many of these conflicts.

This year, in 2014, we have seen a new element. This is the increased fighting caused by Rapid Support Forces. This force has engaged in rampaging and burning villages. Its activities have caused nearly 200,000 people to be displaced this year alone. This is very worrying. We've also seen an increased activity on the part of rebel movements. It's unfortunate because we have been engaging them, discussing with them, and trying to encourage them to participate in the national dialogue.

On the one hand, the Government must stop the activities of the Rapid Support Forces. On the other hand, the movements must stop their military activities. Both of them must go back to dialogue and agree on the modalities for the participation of all Sudanese in this dialogue to bring about long-term sustainable solutions to the crisis, both in Darfur and indeed other parts of Sudan.

How does the increase in community violence affect your work with armed groups in Darfur?

Any escalation in violence poses a challenge to our mission. And we have of course tried to live up to expectations, and we have tried to engage. We've organized workshops and training sessions in conflict mediation, tried to revive the traditional system of local-level conflict resolution, and tried to empower community leaders to bring these conflicts under control.

What's the latest regarding your mediation efforts with the armed groups?

We have made some progress there. I have visited them in Kampala. I have convened meetings in Arusha. I have travelled with them to Addis Ababa to meet with the leadership of the African Union. In all of these meetings, our message has been the same: Both the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council call upon all parties to the conflict to abandon the military option and to seek instead a political solution.

I think there has been some flexibility demonstrated on the part of the movements, just as the Government has announced a national dialogue. The challenge then is to get both sides to start discussing security arrangements to stop the military confrontation. The military option is exhausted in Darfur. Neither of the two sides can win.

The Government has not been able defeat the rebels, after 10 years. The rebels, on the other hand, are incapable of defeating the Government. So to continue the military option only brings more hardship to the population. Both sides must pull away from the military option and give this political track of national dialogue a chance.

So we need to discuss the security arrangements that should be put in place to enable the armed movements-the non-signatory movements-to participate in dialogue.

When you go back to Darfur, and you start working with the new Security Council resolution, what are the goals that you think you can achieve this year for the people of Darfur?

We have been working on these issues for some time already. As a mission, we understand that we need to be more effective. We need to be more efficient. We need to do more with less because resources are scarce and new missions are coming up. The new priorities set for us are clear. I need to step up my mediation efforts as Chief Mediator. Our forces and our civilian staff must step up on protection. And we must continue to engage and provide all the logistical and technical support to communities of Darfur to bring to an end the inter-communal fighting.

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