12 August 2014

Sudan: 'UN Investigation Team to Arrive in Darfur Within Weeks' - Unamid Head

Photo: Albert Gonzalez Farran/UN
A displaced woman sits on a bed next to the remnants of her burnt house in Khor Abeche, South Darfur.

Khartoum — A UN team will arrive in Darfur within two weeks to investigate allegations made by Unamid's former spokeswoman Aicha Elbasri that the joint AU-UN peacekeeping mission has covered up crimes against civilians and Unamid troops.

The head of Unamid, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, told reporters in a press conference in Khartoum on Monday that an investigation team is in New York already, and will visit the Mission in Darfur "in the next week or two".

Elbasri, who resigned from her post in April 2013, revealed early this year that Unamid had misinformed the UN by withholding important details about crimes committed by government-backed militias in Darfur. She said that Unamid covered the facts that the Sudanese government failed to disarm the Janjaweed. It reintegrated them into newly formed paramilitary forces instead, who could then continue with their attacks against civilians in the western region.

Resolution 2148

The Unamid head pointed out to the reporters that Unamid embarked on a comprehensive set of reforms, for which the roadmap was set out in UNSC Resolution 2148 of April 2014.

"Resolution 2148 provided us with the opportunity to rethink and re-evaluate the overall structure of the Mission through a comprehensive review of civilian, military and police components to maximise operational capability and achieve cost efficiency."

"It also helped us to refocus our efforts around three strategic priorities defined by the Security Council namely: protection of civilians; facilitation of the delivery of humanitarian assistance; and mediation between the Government of Sudan and non-signatory armed movements on the basis of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), while taking into account ongoing democratic transformation at the national level, and support for the mediation of communities in conflict, including measures to address its root causes."

Security situation

Ibn Chambas informed the press that last Thursday he briefed the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the on the general security situation in Darfur for the period of April to June of 2014. He said that fighting between government forces and armed groups reduced considerably in the past months.

"Nevertheless," he noted, "intermittent inter-communal violence and acts of banditry and criminality continue to be a challenge for the civilian population of Darfur, Unamid peacekeepers, and pose a threat to the safety and security of humanitarian personnel. And sometimes even Government of Sudan military and police personnel."

"Unamid also continues to provide, in partnership with the UN Country Team, physical protection and facilitation of humanitarian assistance to civilians who sought refuge around our team sites when under threats of attacks." "I also assured the Council that Unamid troops and police are becoming more proactive and adopting a most robust posture in protecting civilians."

Since early 2014, 385,000 Darfuris are estimated to have been newly displaced. Unamid's head said that "humanitarian access has improved". "According to preliminary July access monitoring date provided by OCHA, there were 51 attempts in July to reach various affected areas in Darfur. Of these, the authorities declined only two humanitarian access requests to reach Adila and Abu Karinka in East Darfur State. Similarly for the reporting period there were 21 access denials for Unamid, compared to 72 in the previous quarter."

He pointed that tribal conflicts continue to flare up in many parts of Darfur. Unamid has provided technical support to local reconciliation initiatives in the Rizeigat-Niweiba conflicts in Central Darfur; between Ma'aliya and Rizeigat in East Darfur; and between Rizeigat and Beni Hussein in North Darfur.

He said that the humanitarian situation remains very dire, saying that more than 30 percent of the Darfur population had fled their villages.

Peace process

Regarding the in the implementation of the DDPD, Ibn Chambas stated that "some progress has been made". "These included formal launching of the Darfur Internal Dialogue and Consultation and the formation of a 17-member Implementation Committee to lead the process and ensure local ownership; the release by the State of Qatar of US$10 million, out of its pledged US$88 million, towards financing the Darfur Development Strategy Foundational and Short-Term projects; and steps towards the verification and integration of Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM). and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)-Sudan combatants under the DDPD security arrangements."

As for the peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and the non-signatory rebel movements, Joint Chief Mediator Ibn Chambas reported that he has intensified coordination with the AU High-level Implementation Panel, and the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General to Sudan and South Sudan, Haile Menkerios. "We agreed to explore the possibility of organising a preparatory meeting as soon as possible, which would involve the representatives of the armed movements and the Government of the Sudan at a mutually convenient venue."

The main Darfur rebel movements, the Sudan Liberation Movement factions led by Abdel Wahid El Nur faction, and by Minni Minawi, and the Justice and Equality Movement, have refused to join the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, signed on 14 July 2011, in Doha, Qatar, between the Sudanese government and the Darfur Liberation and Justice Movement. The three rebel groups claimed that the document was partial, and does not fulfill the demands of the Darfur people. The armed movements instead joined the Sudan Revolutionary Front (RSF, an alliance of the main Sudanese resistance forces).

National dialogue

He hailed the ruling National Congress Party's launch of a national dialogue, calling it "an historic opportunity to resolve the Darfur crisis and other crises in the Sudan". He urged the non-signatory rebel movements "to take advantage of the proposed national dialogue" and upon the Sudanese government "to make the security arrangements to ensure their participation". "The proposed national dialogue is an initiative that deserves the support and engagement by all Sudanese and the international community for a new beginning."

Replying to a question about his opinion about the Paris Declaration, signed last Friday by the SRF armed movements alliance SRF and the opposition National Umma Party (NUP), Ibn Chambas said that he had not seen the document yet. He repeated his appeal to "all Sudanese political forces, parties and movements to seize the opportunity for a national dialogue".

"I want to ensure that we do have an inclusive and credible national dialogue process which can help to end the wars and other conflicts and give this country a new beginning, a new opportunity to move forward in peace and stability."

On Friday 8 August, Malik Agar, SRF chairman and El Sadig El Mahdi, NUP president signed the Paris Declaration, in which they agreed on unifying the Sudanese opposition in order to end the conflicts in the country, and work on a democratic transformation. Upon her return from Paris, late on Monday evening, Dr Maryam El Sadig, NUP deputy-president, was detained at Khartoum airport by Sudanese security forces.

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