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Darfur: Failure To Advance Peace Process

Sudanese Government, Darfur Rebels Failed To Advance Peace Process Last Month - UN Report

The Sudanese Government and the rebel groups in the country's troubled Darfur region made no serious attempt over the past month to find a political solution to their conflict, although they engaged in fewer violent clashes, according to the latest report on the situation by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

In his monthly report on Darfur to the Security Council, Mr. Annan says both the Khartoum Government and the rebels failed to capitalize on the momentum generated by January's signing of a comprehensive peace agreement ending a separate conflict between the Government and rebel forces in southern Sudan.

While the Government has issued "numerous statements" suggesting it is willing to hold talks with Darfur rebels, the Secretary-General explains, it has not stopped Janjaweed militias from attacking civilians, nor has it acted swiftly or decisively to end impunity for human rights abusers.

"The Janjaweed's boldness, be it in regard to theft, attacks on civilians or armed movements, is a direct consequence of inaction by the Government to rein in, let alone disarm or arrest, these groups."

Meanwhile, rebel forces continue to harass relief workers, refuse to reveal their positions to the African Union (AU) ceasefire monitoring force in place, and fire on helicopters belonging to the AU and the UN World Food Programme (WFP). They are also increasingly politically divided, making serious negotiations more difficult.

Mr. Annan calls for the AU monitoring force to be strengthened "during this period of relative calm" so that serious clashes in the future can be prevented or reduced and fewer civilians in the vast and impoverished region on Sudan's western flank will feel forced to flee their homes.

He states that the security situation remains fragile, despite the fewer clashes between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups in February than in the previous two months.

Militias continue to attack civilians, sometimes for tribally-motivated reasons and not because of the conflict between Khartoum and the rebels that began in early 2003 and claimed many tens of thousands of lives since then. More than 1.8 million people are internally displaced or live across the border in refugee camps in Chad.

Mr. Annan stresses in his report that an enhanced AU mission in Darfur should lead to physical separation between Government forces and rebel groups, increasing the potential for stability and reducing the likelihood of militia attacks.

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