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Report: Hopes For Darfur Political Solution Wilt

Hopes for political solution in Darfur wilt under military action - UN report

16 April 2008 - The prospect of negotiating a political solution to the Darfur crisis has become ever more remote as both the Sudanese Government and rebels appear determined to pursue a military solution, according to a United Nations report released today.

At the same time the international community's failure to supply vital helicopters, transport and other logistical support is undermining the work of the seriously under-staffed African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) to pacify a region where five years of fighting have killed more than 200,000 people and driven nearly 2.5 million others from their homes.

"I am extremely disappointed in the lack of progress on all fronts," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in the report that covers the UNAMID's operations for the first three months of the year.

"The parties appear determined to pursue a military solution; the political process stalled; the deployment of UNAMID is progressing very slowly and continues to face many challenges; and the humanitarian situation is not improving."

Blaming the lack of a political commitment on all sides as the primary obstacle, Mr. Ban stresses that if they had mustered the necessary will, agreed to cease hostilities, cooperated with the deployment of UNAMID and moved towards negotiations, "we would by now have started to witness significant progress towards a lasting solution."

UNAMID was set up at the end of last year with a target strength of 26,000 military and police personnel to replace a seriously under-manned and under-equipped African Union (AU) mission, but at present only has some 10,600 in the field, 1,400 of them civilians.

"It is critical that the international community recognize its own central role in supporting the mission, so as to enable it to effectively implement its mandate and contribute to improving the lives of the civilians of Darfur," Mr. Ban writes. "In that respect, more must be done to secure the necessary aviation and logistical capacities for a full and effective deployment.

"Creative solutions must be found for those shortfalls, and they must be found quickly. I once again call on all Member States to pledge the necessary capabilities for UNAMID or to prevail upon other who may be on a position to do so."

He notes that although the Government agreed in principle to the Mission's right to conduct night flights, it continues to obstruct operations by restricting flying hours. UNAMID has also not been afforded complete general freedom of movement, particularly in areas of West Darfur affected by ongoing violence between the Government and the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).

Turning to the effect of the fighting on Darfurians, Mr. Ban stresses that Government military actions in West Darfur and the widespread use of force against civilians has resulted in indiscriminate killings and other grave human rights abuses. "JEM must also be held accountable for the role it has played in creating those circumstances," he says.

Calling the implications of the current security situation for Darfurians grave, he adds that attacks on food convoys and general violence are hindering the provision of humanitarian aid. Moreover, sexual and gender-based violence in and around camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) is high.

He concludes with a call to all parties to "urgently commit to a cessation of hostilities and to meaningfully engage in the political process led by the Special Envoys" - Jan Eliasson of the UN and Salim Ahmed Salim of the AU, who have been spearheading efforts to launch negotiations.


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