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08 February 2005

Darfur Remains Dismal, U.N. Envoy Says

Security Council holds session on Sudan

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- While praising the North-South peace agreement in Sudan, the U.N. Security Council has complained to Sudanese officials about the continuing violence and grim situation in Darfur.

At a public council meeting February 9 with Sudanese Vice President Ali Usman Taha and opposition leader John Garang, the Security Council said that despite the moment of great opportunity presented by the historic North-South comprehensive peace agreement, it is deeply concerned about the situation in Darfur, which is not covered by the agreement.

"The council believes that every effort should be made to keep the present momentum and to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement so as to achieve genuine national reconciliation," the council said in a statement read by Council President Joel Adechi of Benin.  "It is a moment of great opportunity for Sudan.  All the people of Sudan should strive to seize this opportunity and stir development in the path leading to a solid and long-lasting peace for the country."

However, the council expressed its "discontent with the cease-fire violations and with the continuing acts of violence in Darfur, especially those reported in these last weeks," Security Council President Adechi said in the presidential statement.

"At the present stage, strenuous efforts should be made to optimize the positive impact we expect the North South peace agreement will exert on the conflict in Darfur.  We urge all parties to work towards a sustainable and inclusive political settlement in Darfur, including the rapid agreement on a declaration of principles, in order to end as quickly as possible the ongoing conflict," the council statement said.

The Security Council said it is fully committed to take measures that would encourage and enable the international community to do its part in supporting and consolidating the peace process.  The council is working on a resolution to establish a U.N. peacekeeping operation to implement the peace agreement.  It has also endorsed Norway's initiative to convene a donors' conference in Oslo to mobilize resources for development.

U.N. Special Envoy Jan Pronk said Khartoum's actions regarding Darfur over the past six months has been "uneven," and "a robust third-party force from outside to stop a ruthless third force from within" is needed to stop the atrocities in Darfur.

Pronk said that in order to end the conflict, an African Union force larger than the 3,000 now committed to the region is needed in the camps of displaced people, on humanitarian aid access roads, and in all zones to be demilitarized, as well as in areas where the refugees and displaced will return.

"Humanitarian access in Darfur has improved due to the lifting of restrictions on humanitarian assistance delivery last summer," Pronk said.  "However, action on human rights, in particular measures to end impunity, have fallen short of what the government agreed to and what the Security Council has demanded."

"The government has shown willingness to make progress in the political talks on Darfur.  However, fighting on the ground continues.  The cease-fire has not been kept.  Those responsible for atrocious crimes on a massive scale go unpunished.  Militias continue to attack, claiming that they are not part of any agreement.  The government has not stopped them," the special envoy said.

Tribal or ethnic cleansing is still being carried out by militia, Pronk charged.  "They can only be stopped by a third-party force.  After six months we can only come to the conclusion that the government has not stopped the violence and has not brought the perpetrators of the violations -- the instigators, not the petty combatants -- to justice. ...  We urgently need a breakthrough."

Sudanese Vice President Taha told the council that the government "is determined to pursue a course of settlement" in Darfur with the same patience, perseverance, and seriousness that brought about the North-South agreement so that 2005 can be the "year for a comprehensive peace for Darfur."

Taha said that his recent visit to the region "convinced me more of the need to arrive at a political solution that will end the war and alleviate the suffering of our people there."

The vice president also called on the international community to support reconstruction and development efforts so "the people of Sudan can reap the peace dividend."  He asked the international community to lift any economic and trade restrictions or sanctions that obstruct reconstruction efforts, write off foreign debt, and give generously to the upcoming donors' conference.

Talking with journalists after the session, Taha said the Sudanese government "is committed and has the will to prosecute those accused of all atrocities or human rights violations and believes the Sudanese judiciary is professional enough and able to do justice."

At the end of January the Security Council received the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur, which concluded that although Khartoum did not pursue a policy of genocide in Darfur, crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed that "may be no less serious and heinous than genocide."

"A body of reliable information indicates that war crimes may have been committed on a large scale, at times even as part of a plan or a policy," the commission said.  A wealth of credible material suggests that criminal acts were committed by government officials, the government's Jingaweit militia, and other local militias as part of widespread or systematic attacks directed against the civilian population that "may amount to crimes against humanity."

The commission turned over the names of alleged perpetrators and corroborating evidence to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the Commission on Human Rights for use in prosecutions.

Opposition leader Garang said that the North-South agreement presents challenges and opportunities for Sudan, Africa, and the world.  "The agreement has to be translated into real benefits," he said.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) is preparing to implement the agreement and has worked out mechanisms for various organs "for turning armed opposition into institutions of good governance," Garang said.  He also asked that an SPLM representative be allowed in talks under way at U.N. headquarters on the details of the peacekeeping force.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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