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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Tuesday 8 February 2005

SUDAN: Security situation in Darfur deteriorating - AU

NAIROBI, 8 Feb 2005 (IRIN) - The security situation in the western Sudanese states of North and South Darfur has deteriorated progressively over the past four months, with unacceptable consequences for the peace and tranquility of the civilian populations, according to the African Union (AU).

"While all sides to the conflict in Darfur were responsible for the situation, the worst perpetrators were the Janjawid/armed militia," Baba Gana Kingibe, the special representative of the chairperson of the AU commission in Sudan, said in a statement on Saturday.

AU monitors and humanitarian agencies last week found seven South Darfur villages burned to the ground and three others abandoned, while at least six abductions and the looting of food aid from an NGO were reported.

Kingibe noted, however, that calm had been restored in the region over the past week, particularly during a two-day visit by Sudan's first vice president, Ali Osman Mohammed Taha on Friday and Saturday.

Taha's trip was intended to enable him to assess the situation on the ground first hand.

Kingibe particularly welcomed Taha's assurances to the AU ceasefire observer mission, during his visit to Darfur, that he would personally ensure that matters would improve, and that efforts to find a lasting solution to the crisis would be accelerated.

The Au statement followed the recent release of the report of a UN-backed commission that said that while genocide did not occur in Darfur, government-supported militias were still perpetrating rape, mass killings and destruction in Darfur.

The commission recommended that the UN Security council referred its dossier on the crimes in Darfur to the International Criminal Court so that the perpetrators named in a secret annex to the report, including Sudan government officials, might be prosecuted for war crimes.

Khartoum, however, is opposed to any overseas trials of its nationals.

"What is being reported about the trial of some individuals or officials in courts outside the Sudan is something we will not accept as a government," Sudan's state-run news agency, SUNA, quoted Taha as saying at a rally in North Darfur's capital, Al Fasher.

Meanwhile, the governor of North Darfur, Osman Kedir, on Saturday reportedly announced that the Sudanese government had removed all its Antonov planes from Darfur, and would not use them in the area. It had previously been accused of using them to bomb villages.

"They have been withdrawn, all of them, and they will not return," Kedir was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

"Jan Pronk [special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sudan] has recently asked the Sudanese government to stop using their Antonov planes in Darfur altogether," George Somerwill, deputy spokesperson for the UN's Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS), told IRIN on Monday.

"The withdrawal of their planes could have been prompted by this request, although UNAMIS has not received any official confirmation of this withdrawal," he added.

Pronk told the UN Security Council on Friday that he feared last month's peace agreement, ending over two decades of conflict in southern Sudan, would prove short-lived without an end to the conflict in Darfur.

"Failure to find solutions to the conflicts in Darfur and elsewhere in the Sudan will mean that any peace support operation limited to south Sudan will be affected by the consequences of such conflicts," he warned.

Taha and John Garang, the leader of the Southern Sudanese Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), are scheduled to address the Security Council in New York on 8 February. The Council will discuss the role and scope of a UN peace support mission in Sudan, following the signing of a comprehensive peace accord between the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A on 9 January in Nairobi, Kenya.

The war between the SPLM/A and the Sudanese government in the south erupted in 1983 when southern rebels took up arms against northern authorities in Khartoum, demanding greater autonomy. Relief agencies say the fighting has left at least two million dead, four million internally displaced, and up to 600,000 exiled in neighbouring countries.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Darfur since the conflict began in 2003, while as many as 1.85 million have been displaced from their homes. The UN has described the Darfur conflict as one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.


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