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Despite progress towards peace, Sudan still 'utterly fragile' - UN envoy

22 July 2005 While the international community’s humanitarian, political and African-led military strategy for peace and stability in Sudan was finally bearing fruit, the situation was still extremely fragile, particularly for millions of people in war-torn Darfur, and would perhaps require decades of sustained efforts to set right, the top United Nations envoy for Sudan warned today.

This could be a year of “decisive change” for Sudan – building on a January 2005 peace agreement signed between the Government and Southern rebels that ended more than 30 years of war – but further confidence-building measures would certainly be necessary, Jan Pronk, head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) told the Security Council today.

“All in all, there is room for improvement, but we must be realistic – the situation is utterly fragile,” Mr. Pronk said, briefing the Council on the latest developments in the country. The wounds afflicted on millions of people during a lengthy period of neglect, exclusion, injustice and bad governance could not be healed over night.

He said that democratization and guaranteeing human rights would require more than an agreement between leaders and fighters. Poverty was very deep and the battle against poverty following the fight for peace would require decades of sustained efforts by the Sudanese and the international community. Ongoing reconciliation, and management of conflicts between nomads and farmers, would require political attention and resources for compensation and development.

Mr. Pronk’s briefing came on the heels of the release of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s latest report on the situation in western Darfur region, where a two-year conflict between the Khartoum Government, allied militia and rebels has killed at least 180,000 people and displaced nearly 2 million other. The report says that violence there has diminished greatly compared to the period from early 2003 until the middle of last year. “There can be little doubt that the situation in Darfur is less dangerous for civilians than it was a year ago,” the Secretary-General says.

Nevertheless, he adds, these developments are only a modest step forward, and the decrease in attacks on civilians may be because there are fewer locations to strike after so many villages have been destroyed since the war began. Yet he is optimistic that an agreement can be reached by the end of the year, if the parties show serious good-faith commitment to the Abuja process, in which they are negotiating a settlement in the Nigerian capital, and if there is sustained international pressure on them to do so.

Mr. Pronk told the Council meanwhile that even though a freshly-minted cease fire between the Government and Darfur’s two main rebel factions was holding, for the moment, the situation was delicate. “Militia attacks on villages have decreased, but banditry has increased and attacks can flare up…rapes also continue,” he added.

While praising the work of the African Union Mission in Darfur, and the Government’s efforts to establish a court to deal with crimes against humanity committed in the region, Mr. Pronk called on the Government to take ever more steps to bring perpetrators of heinous crimes to justice. “Only then can impunity be stopped. Only then will the present reconciliation efforts result in not just clearing away the dark past, but also in opening a new era in which such crimes cannot be repeated,” he said.

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