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UN Urges Sudan To Reject Ethnic Divisions


UN Expert Urges Sudan To Reject Ethnic Divisions And Provide Security

Just back from a week-long mission to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region – scene of what is considered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – a United Nations rights expert today called for the country to foster a national identity based on inclusiveness and not race, culture or religion.

Francis M. Deng, the Secretary-General’s Representative on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), said he found that Darfur was beset by “persistent insecurity and human rights violations” during his tour of the region last week.

In particular, he cited “many accounts and reports” of rape of women outside of camps, and called on the Government to ensure treatment for the victims while bringing the perpetrators to justice.

Mr. Deng said that while many of the estimated 1.2 million IDPs in Darfur want to return to their homes eventually, they remain afraid to do so because of continued attacks by Janjaweed militias against local civilians.

Mr. Deng, who is himself Sudanese, said he was disturbed that Khartoum was pressuring IDPs to return home before it was safe. “Return will only be sustainable if the right to return voluntarily in safety and dignity is respected at all times,” he said in a statement, adding that the insecurity is the biggest concern of the IDPs.

Calling for “a comprehensive, peaceful and negotiated settlement” of the conflict in Darfur, where two rebel groups have been fighting Government forces and the allied Janjaweed since early last year, Mr. Deng said Sudan has been riven for too long by faultlines of race, ethnicity, religion and culture.

He described a “new common and inclusive framework of national identity in which all Sudanese would find a sense of belonging as citizens with equality and dignity of citizenship.”

“Resisting this unfolding reality would be imprudent, unsustainable and self-defeating,” he warned.

Mr. Deng said that although he was heartened by Khartoum’s vows to bring to justice those responsible for human rights violations in Darfur, and to improve access for humanitarian workers, much more still needed to be done.

His comments came as Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, visited Khartoum for a meeting of the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM).

Mr. Pronk and Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail are co-chairs of JIM, which was set up by Sudan and the UN to ensure compliance with commitments made by both sides in a joint communiqué on 3 July.

JIM is meeting this week to discuss the report of an observer mission of UN staff, Sudanese officials and representatives of concerned countries, which visited Darfur early last week.

That mission was attempting to verify whether Sudan was meeting its pledges to disarm the Janjaweed and restore security to Darfur, a vast, impoverished region in the west of the country.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) has begun air drops of food to about 72,000 IDPs in Darfur who have been cut off by recent heavy rains. The first drop – consisting of corn-soya blend and lentils – took place in West Darfur yesterday.

WFP’s Country Director in Sudan, Ramiro Lopes da Silva, said more money is needed from donors to pay for future planned airdrops.

“Dropping food by air is always an expensive last resort, but for many parts of Darfur we simply have no other option at this time of year,” he explained.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is continuing its polio and cholera vaccination campaigns in West Darfur, where UN humanitarian agencies say there is an increased Janjaweed presence.

In South Darfur, ceasefire monitors from the African Union (AU) have warned aid workers to stay away from certain areas because of a fresh outbreak of fighting between Government forces and members of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), a rebel group.

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