UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
SUDAN: Government asks Security Council to be patient on Darfur
NEW YORK, 24 Aug 2006 (IRIN) - Sudanese President Omer Al-Bashir has called on the United Nations Security Council to “be patient” in resolving the conflict in Darfur and indicated, in a letter to the Council President earlier this week, that the UK-US draft resolution for a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur was unacceptable to Khartoum.
“We request the Security Council to be patient and not to be in a hurry to adopt a new resolution on the matter, and to allow the government of the Sudan sufficient time to resolve the situation in Darfur,” according to the August 21 letter to Council President, Ghanian Ambassador Nana Effah-Apentang.
According to the latest UN report, over 200,000 people are estimated to have died, with millions more displaced throughout the country while 200,000 have sought refuge in neighbouring Chad. The Sudan government has been implicated in arming local Arab militias who embarked on a campaign of violence against civilians in Darfur since 2003.
The UK-US draft resolution, which calls for the deployment of a 17,500-strong UN force and an additional 3,300 civilian police, is the latest attempt to address the spiraling violence. With the AMIS mandate due to expire on September 30, the draft resolution calls for an expanded logistical role for the UN.
“We want to transition from a strengthened AMIS force to a UN peacekeeping force in January 2007,” said a senior diplomat close to the negotiations, who indicated that the AMIS mandate should be extended until December.
However, Sudanese Deputy Ambassador to the UN Omar Bashir Manis said his government remained opposed to a UN deployment. “Legally speaking the AU has not the right to transfer [the mandate to the UN]. The Sudanese government is opposing the sending of troops and I cannot see how anyone can envisage sending troops to a country which is not welcoming those troops,” he told reporters earlier this week.
While it had been hoped that the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) signed between the Khartoum government and two rebel groups on May 5 would end the three year civil war in Darfur, fighting has since escalated between signatories and non-signatories of the peace deal.
The 7,000 troops of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) - under-funded and poorly-equipped – are considered to be largely ineffective at containing the violence in a region roughly the size of France. The killing of two Rwandan AMIS soldiers in an ambush by armed elements on Saturday in North Darfur State is the latest in a string of incidents aimed at the international humanitarian and security presence.
According to the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Sudanese proposal fails to address the protection of civilians, a key tenet of the peace agreement.
“There is nothing about demobilization, disarmament or the withdrawal of forces. If this government plan is accepted there will be nothing left of the peace agreement,” said Peter Takirambudde, Africa Director at HRW.
A HRW researcher, Jemera Rone, said that the Sudanese government had made a promise at the AU summit. “Since then, everyone has been waiting for them to deliver a plan. Now the plan has come and it is worse than you would have imagined. It’s just more war,” she said.
The UN Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch-Brown told reporters last week that he “was extremely worried about the deterioration of the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur, and the absence of a clear political path to the deployment of the UN force”.
“It is very, very important that we pay lots of attention to Darfur. Something very ugly is brewing there,” he said.
In a closed-door briefing on 17 August, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, warned the Council that the Sudanese government seemed determined to pursue a major military offensive in war-torn Darfur, building up armed forces in the region as the situation there deteriorated.
A source in the region told IRIN that the Sudanese armed forces seemed to be amassing large numbers of soldiers and military hardware in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur State, where the most recent fighting took place.
In fact, the Sudanese government has proposed to send 10,500 government troops to Darfur, but such an action would be in direct violation of the peace agreement.
Sudan had been invited to present its plan in an open briefing to the Security Council on Monday. The AU, Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Conference were slated to attend, but the two Arab groups will not be sending a delegation, while the AU is sending a mid-level official.
Al-Bashir wrote to the council late Wednesday night, informing them that neither he nor a high-level representative would attend, as “we deem it appropriate to postpone the meeting to enable better preparations,” he wrote.
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