UN: Darfur security, humanitarian situations deteriorating - UN peacekeeping chief

New York, US (PANA) - The UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Herve Ladsous, says the security and humanitarian situations in Sudan's Darfur region have "significantly deteriorated" in 2014, with no less than 450,000 new displacements.

Mr. Ladsous, who briefed the UN Security Council on Tuesday in New York, said that the development was the highest volume of people fleeing their homes since the peak of the conflict in 2004, and at least 300,000 of those remain displaced, mostly in camps for internally displaced persons, with the total number of displaced persons in Darfur now totalling 2.5 million."

He said that there had also been no tangible progress toward resolving the conflict.

The UN peacekeeping chief presented two reports to the Council, including one specifically
dedicated to implementation by the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) of new strategic priorities, which highlighted progress made and difficulties encountered during the exercise.

He stated: "The current upsurge in Darfur, at least for now, is largely attributable to the ongoing Government of Sudan and the RSF (Rapid Support Forces – a counter-insurgency militia) military offensive, which is not directly linked with the forthcoming Sudanese general elections."

He, however, warned that events on the ground could change as election campaigns intensified, particularly in light of recent calls by Sheikh Musa Hilal, a prominent tribal leader in North Darfur, for an election boycott and disruption of the electoral process across Darfur.

"Also, if the threat did actualise, existing inter-tribal tensions may heighten as strict security measures and additional government security forces were deployed," Mr. Ladsous stressed.

The UN official noted the government’s "Decisive Summer" military offensive against non-signatory armed groups, saying: "The national army had significantly weakened and isolated the armed groups geographically, also causing significant loss of lives and large-scale displacement."

"This negative trend of loss of lives and heavy displacement has continued most recently with the continuation of fighting between the government and the armed groups," he said, pointing to at least 43,000 new displacements since the beginning of the year.

At the same time as the situation on the ground was worsening, Mr. Ladsous said prospects for holding the National Dialogue between the government and the opposition before the election were limited, with talks on Darfur breaking down and the government implementing measures curtailing political freedom.

"However, in February, the Berlin Declaration was signed, which called for the convening of an inclusive preparatory meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa to revive the talks, and the Berlin Declaration seems to demonstrate a certain consensus among the opposition to reengage in the National Dialogue," he said.

He also said that, throughout 2014, the UN/AU Joint Special Representative for Darfur had urged rebels to participate in the peace process based on the Doha agreement and without preconditions.

The UN official recalled that, direct negotiations took place in November but were suspended because the parties were too far apart, while UNAMID continued to provide sites and camps for displaced people and continued to support efforts to address the root causes of the conflict by engaging traditional chiefs, civil society and others.

Turning to the mission, Mr. Ladsous described the efforts taken to address the three main challenges to its mandate implementation, which were identified in last year’s strategic review, including improved cooperation with the government in some areas, implementation of measures to improve the mission’s troops’ operational capabilities and effectiveness on the ground, and improvements to coordination and management structures.

"Nevertheless, some of the major challenges remain," he said, listing the need to improve the mission’s reporting of incidents and analysis, its internal and external communications approach, and the recruitment of personnel to key posts.

"Despite strategic and operational-level improvements in coordination with the United Nations Country Team, further progress on establishing an effective Darfur-wide early warning and response system is required," he added.

Mr. Ladsous also told members of the Security Council that the Sudanese government was still preventing the UN from doing its work, stating that, "the biggest problem is the government's
denial of access for UNAMID to conflict affected areas and that continues to impede significantly the ability of the mission to implement its mandate for the protection of civilians".

He explained that this was the case in North Darfur in Tabit, following allegations of mass rape last October.

He, however, reported that the UN had taken what it has called "drastic measures" to repatriate some peacekeeping units and their commanders from the mission for "unsuitable behaviour".

The UN peacekeeping chief also said that the UN was actively engaged in discussing the gradual exit of the mission from Darfur region as requested by the Sudanese government, noting that, a proposal on the disengagement in a phased manner would be ready by the end of May.

UNAMID has been in Darfur since July 2007 with the mandate of protecting civilians and promoting the rule of law.
-0- PANA AA/MA 17March2015

17 march 2015 22:07:12

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