SUDAN: Government, rebels hindering progress in Darfur - Annan
NAIROBI, 14 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - Despite a recent decrease in the level of violence, the security situation in the western Sudanese region of Darfur remains fragile, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report released on Friday.
"Neither side has suggested that it is ready for serious, good-faith talks that will be required to revive a process that has clearly stalled," Annan stated in a report to the UN Security Council.
He called for concerted political pressure to be brought to bear on the Sudanese government, militias and rebel groups involved in clashes in Darfur in order to create the conditions for such talks.
"One thing is clear: the government has not stopped these [Janjawid] groups from attacking civilians," he added, noting that the government's failure to hold the Janjawid to account had also undermined the peace process, as well as blighting the lives of thousands of Sudanese.
Rebel movements had also failed to seize the political opportunities created by the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) on 9 January in Nairobi, Kenya, which was aimed at ending the decades-old conflict in the south, the report noted.
While divisions within rebel groups had diminished their capacity to engage in political negotiations, the situation on the ground was no better: "Their forces have refused to reveal their positions to the African Union Ceasefire Commission, have continued to harass relief workers and have fired on African Union [AU] and WFP [World Food Programme] helicopters", claimed the secretary-general.
Annan supported the decision of the Joint Commission - composed of the Sudanese government, the two main rebel movements in Darfur, Chadian mediators and the international community - to deploy a team to map the positions occupied by the various armed groups in Darfur, and to prepare a plan to separate the forces.
Physical disengagement of government and rebel troops would create enough stability to negotiate a comprehensive agreement, it was hoped. This would also diminish the opportunities for militia attacks on civilians.
The report noted the success of a small AU contingent in the area around Labado in South Darfur. Prior to the AU deployment the area had suffered some of the worst fighting in recent months, but the union's troops had had a calming effect, which had led to the return of several internally displaced persons.
"A fully staffed and effective AMIS [African Union Mission in the Sudan] will increase the chances that serious clashes can be prevented or minimised," Annan said, and called on the international community to strengthen the 1,942-strong AU force in Darfur.
According to relief agencies, over 2.4 million people have been affected by the conflict in Darfur between Sudanese government troops - and militias allegedly allied to the government - and rebels fighting to end what they have called the marginalisation and discrimination of the region's inhabitants by the state. Almost 80 percent of those affected have either been internally displaced or forced to flee to neighbouring Chad.