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Despite serious risks, political progress in Sudan

Despite serious risks, political progress in Sudan remains on track: top UN envoy

Despite the resurgence of insecurity in Darfur and south Sudan, new tensions in Khartoum and other threats, political progress is on track on the main fronts of conflict in Sudan, the top envoy of the United Nations to the country said today.

“The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, North-South is on track” and the parties are staying at the table in the Abuja negotiations on Darfur, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative Jan Pronk, told a press briefing at UN Headquarters in New York after urging the Security Council to speed deployment and renew the mandate of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

Unfortunately, he said, violence in both south Sudan and Darfur has increased. In the south, it is due to the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a group led by a charismatic leader that originated in Uganda and has been carrying out attacks in a wider area of Sudan. The LRA has inhibited de-mining and the opening of roads.

With the peace agreement in the south between the Sudanese parties, it was now possible to deal with the LRA militarily, Mr. Pronk said. However, he warned that diplomatic solutions might also be necessary because the group seemed to have the ability to regenerate itself.

In regard to Darfur, he said that it was hard to pin down the details on the increasing violence, but to “a certain extent” it has to do with nomads and a split in the main rebel group, the SLM/A. “There are groups that are not Government and that are not SPLM but the result of splits and splits and splits,” he added.

He said he appealed to the Council to issue an ultimatum to the parties in Darfur to come to a comprehensive peace agreement by 31 December of this year. “There is no reason any more to solve the problem through further shooting and fighting. We don’t accept it any more,” he said, recalling that a similar ultimatum brought progress in the south.

Other problems in the country had a bearing on the success of peacemaking in both arenas, he said. In particular, riots in Khartoum had exacerbated ethnic tensions, and essential political institutions and legal reforms were being established too slowly. In addition, there were new threats in the east of the country and certain areas of the south had been left as ambiguous zones of “special status” by the peace agreements.

Meanwhile, Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, told a separate news conference that although the Sudan’s interim national constitution showed an openness to gender equality, there was a stark contrast between gender-friendly policies and their implementation, particularly in south Sudan.

As an example, she said it remained to be seen whether Sudan’s new Government of National Unity would fill 25 per cent of Government posts with women, as mandated by the interim national constitution. Women had been appointed to just five of the Government’s 74 new posts so far, she said.

Ms. Mayanja visited north Sudan, south Sudan and the Darfur region from 4 to 11 September to assess the situation of women and girls in the country and the role of women in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The Government of Sudan had yet to ratify the 1981 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, she said.

Violence against women, including rape, and impunity for rapists was still widespread, especially in the South’s camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). The rate of sex crimes against women only dropped when African Union (AU) civilian police escorted them outside their camps, but persisted in areas that were not monitored, Ms. Mayanja said.

While UN agencies and programmes were operating in the area, entrenched poverty, scarce financial and water resources, high illiteracy rates and inadequate mental health services to treat trauma continued to impede women’s development and empowerment, she said.

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