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Sudan rife with distrust of UN & fear of Al Qaida

Sudan rife with distrust of UN and fear of Al Qaida, envoy says

Distrust of the United Nations and warnings of Al Qaida involvement are growing in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, the UN’s envoy to the troubled African nation warned today, saying that both are linked to the uncertainty surrounding peacekeeping operations in strife-torn Darfur.

Describing the working environment for UN staff in the capital as “very difficult,” Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said that “politically we are a bit in a stalemate,” referring in particular to the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in the Darfur region and whether, and how, it would be replaced by a UN operation.

“The climate in Khartoum against the UN is heating up very strongly…threats, there are warnings, there is talk about Al Qaida. And there is fear in Khartoum, that is being used, that the UN transition will be not a UN transition but a conspiracy which will bring Sudan into the same situation as Iraq a couple of years ago,” Mr. Pronk said.

“Of course that is a feeling, which is being manipulated by leaders, at the same time it’s also a feeling which is true for many people in the streets of Khartoum, and in that very difficult situation we at the moment are working,” added Mr. Pronk, who heads the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

UNMIS was deployed to support the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed about a year ago in Nairobi between the Government of Sudan and the southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). It also has a mandate from the UN Security Council to provide some support to the AU mission in Darfur.

But despite the peace agreement, violence – involving the rebels, the Government and militias – has continued in the Darfur region, prompting the Security Council yesterday to consider sanctioning individuals deemed to be a threat to the peace or to human rights in the area.

Since fighting flared a week ago in North Darfur, a large number of villages have been attacked and burned, markets have been looted and people displaced. UNMIS has also said that clashes between the Sudan Armed Forces and rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) have continued.

Speaking today, Mr. Pronk also said that 300 people had been killed in one area of South Darfur since December by attackers riding horses and camels and backed up by military vehicles.

He also said that he was “very concerned about what’s going on around the border in Darfur” with neighbouring Chad, where more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees have sought safety in the past three years from the killings in their homeland, adding that there was violence on both sides of the frontier.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that they were now seeing “population movements in both directions along the troubled Chad-Sudan border, further evidence of the spreading insecurity that now straddles this increasingly insecure region.”

“In addition to the more than 200,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur who have sought refuge in eastern Chad in the past three years, we're now seeing indications that some Chadians are themselves fleeing in the opposite direction, to Darfur,” said UNHCR Spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis.

“High Commissioner António Guterres has repeatedly expressed deep concern over the potential for further destabilization in the region,” she added, noting that the Assistant High Commissioner is currently on a one-week mission to Chad to visit its borders with Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR).

UNHCR said today that it had reports of more CAR arrivals fleeing banditry as well as hostilities between rebel groups and government forces in the northern region of their country. If true, this would mean the total number of new arrivals this month in southern Chad from the CAR would be more than 5,000.

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