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Situation Calm In Darfur After Recent Attacks - UN

Security situation relatively calm in Darfur after recent attacks - UN mission

21 July 2008 - The security situation in Darfur was relatively calm again over the weekend, the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) to the strife-torn Sudanese region - where eight blue helmets have been killed this month - reported today.

UNAMID said about 2,000 people, mostly students, took part in a peaceful demonstration in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, yesterday.

The mission has conducted 19 security and confidence-building patrols across the region over the past 24 hours, and UN agencies have also continued to carry out their humanitarian operations.

Ameerah Haq, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, said that essential life-saving services will continue to be provided to Darfur's most vulnerable citizens despite the ongoing insecurity, which has limited aid access to some areas.

Ms. Haq called for the support of Sudanese authorities to help ensure that critical services reach the affected population in Darfur, where as many as 300,000 people are estimated to have been killed as a result of direct combat, disease or malnutrition since 2003. Another 2.7 million people have been displaced because of fighting between rebels, Government forces and allied militiamen known as the Janjaweed.

UNAMID Joint Special Representative Rodolphe Adada met yesterday with the incoming UN-AU Chief Mediator for Darfur, Djibril Yipènè Bassolé, briefing him on the latest developments, including efforts to speed up the deployment of the mission.

Today Mr. Adada met Amr Moussa, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, to discuss cooperation and peace in Darfur in the wake of the recent war crimes charges laid by the International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary-General Jane Holl Lute and General Martin Luther Agwai, the UNAMID Force Commander, visited troops today in the North Darfur town of Shangil Tobaya to show the support of the mission and the wider UN for their work.

Seven peacekeepers were killed on 8 July in an ambush on a UNAMID patrol near Um Hakibah in North Darfur, while another peacekeeper was shot dead in West Darfur last Wednesday.

Gen. Agwai wrote today in an op-ed column published in Johannesburg's Mail & Guardian that the situation has deteriorated so much that the force should be broadened to include more non-African participation.

He said the resolution which authorized the mission outlines a predominantly African character for UNAMID, rather than an exclusively African character.

"Given the understandable constraints among African contributing nations, we should now be able to turn to those non-African countries willing and able to assist our mission at short notice. Darfurians deserve nothing less," he said.

Gen. Agwai also called for the urgent reinforcement of the mission, including both individual troop deployment and the provision of missing equipment and resources, such as tactical helicopters. The mission currently has just over a third of the 26,000 troops and police officers expected when it reaches full deployment.

"I am deeply concerned about the deteriorating security situation here. Peacekeeping has become a deadly business," he wrote, referring to the recent attacks.

Darfur's rebel movements have splintered from a handful two years ago to nearly 30 separate factions and groups today, and they continue to commit attacks, including against members of UNAMID.

"The movements have had it too easy for too long. It is time for them to demonstrate that they are serious about peace. They must lay down their weapons and sit around the negotiating table with the government."

Gen. Agwai also urged the Sudanese Government to take steps to achieve a sustainable settlement in Darfur, an arid and impoverished region on the country's western flank.

"Allowing more peacekeepers in from more countries, removing real or perceived bureaucratic obstacles to our mission and the humanitarian effort, engaging with the movement, reining in its reprehensible militia - these all send a powerful message that the Government is doing its utmost to bring about peace in Darfur."

ENDS

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