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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Wednesday 24 March 2004

SUDAN: Gov't stresses commitment to just and peaceful solution to Darfur conflict

NAIROBI, 24 Mar 2004 (IRIN) - The government of Sudan has said it is committed to a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in Darfur through political dialogue. "Through political dialogue a final agreement can be reached in the region," said a statement issued by the Sudanese embassy in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on Wednesday.

However, the statement said, this did not mean that the government would give up its "constitutional responsibility in defending the country and its citizens, and to ensure their security, safety and the safety of their belongings". International law gave the government the right to enforce law and order within its territorial boundaries for the purpose of ensuring stability and security, it continued.

The government said it had conveyed "a strong protest" regarding statements made last week by the UN's outgoing Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, who described the conflict as the "world's greatest humanitarian crisis".

The government said the situation in Darfur was "characterised by marked stability", adding that Khartoum had pursued considerable efforts to develop Darfur. By 2003 there were 786 primary schools in the region, compared with 241 in 1986, it said. In the health sector, the number of hospitals had increased from six to 23 between 1988 and 2001. Health centres had increased from 20 to 44 in the same period.

The government reiterated that it was "committed to reach a peaceful solution", adding that it had launched an initiative to conclude military operations, and issue a general amnesty and a call for a reconciliation conference for the people of Darfur.

Last week, the rights group Amnesty International (AI) said Khartoum had made "no progress to ensure the protection of civilians caught up in the conflict in Darfur". "This is not a situation where the central government has lost control," said AI. "Men, women and children are being killed and villages are burnt and looted because the central government is allowing militias aligned to it to pursue what amounts to a strategy of forced displacement through the destruction of homes and livelihood of the farming populations of the region."

AI said it had received information indicating that "the Sudan government is encouraging the actions of the Janjawid", noting that "for the past year, no member of the Janjawid has been arrested or brought to justice for a single unlawful killing".

Internationally monitored peace talks between the government and Darfur's two rebel groups - the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement - were due to open in Chad soon, an EU official told IRIN.

The Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003, when the rebels emerged demanding political and economic rights.


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