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Violence Intensifies In Darfur

Violence Intensifies In Darfur As UN-African Union Force Struggles To Fully Deploy

New York, Dec 19 2008 6:10PM

The violence in Darfur has intensified in recent months with attacks on humanitarian workers, peacekeepers and the growing number of displaced persons sheltering in makeshift camps, with inter-tribal clashes and fighting between the Government and armed militia adding to the mayhem, the head of United Nations peacekeeping told the Security Council today.

Alain LeRoy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed Council members on recent developments in the war-wracked region of western Sudan, saying that violence continues unabated as the bloody conflict enters its sixth year.

An estimated 300,000 people have been killed since fighting erupted in 2003 between Government forces, allied militiamen – known as the Janjaweed – and rebels, and 2.7 million others have been forced from their homes and now live as refugees or as internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Almost one year on from transferring the task of quelling the violence in Darfur to the hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID, Mr. LeRoy noted that while some progress has been made “it has been much too slow in providing real improvement for the ordinary citizens on the ground and inadequate in resolving the Darfur crisis.”

He said that millions remain in camps for IDPs, dependent on life-saving humanitarian assistance and “over the past six months alone, an additional 100,000 people have been displaced.”

The security situation for these IDPs worsens year after year and remains volatile, stressed Mr. LeRoy, saying “the past two months have been no exception.”

“In the first year of its operation, UNAMID lost 21 personnel. Most recently, on 29 October, a peacekeeper was killed and another was injured after being attacked while guarding a water-point near the Kassab IDP camp in North Darfur,” he said.

Some 41 men and three children were killed, while seven women were raped in seven separate inter-tribal clashes in October alone. The gunmen also burnt a large amount of cultivated land and looted livestock.

“Just last week, in two separate incidents, tribal clashes in South Darfur claimed another 75 lives, including the Government of Sudan police, who tried to intervene.”

UNAMID was also able to confirm reports of aerial bombardments and persistent clashes between the Government and armed rebel forces despite Sudan’s unilateral declaration of a ceasefire on 12 November.

“The Government should honour its commitment to the cessation of hostilities,” stressed Mr. LeRoy.

Amid this continued violence, the UN-AU operation has focused on the protection of civilians, but is hampered by a severely under-deployed force.

“Over the past year, the frequency of the Mission’s patrols has increased, in order to facilitate humanitarian access and provide convoy protection, but also as a confidence-building measure and to investigate security incidents,” said the Under-Secretary-General.

Earlier in the month, UNAMID averted a major crisis following clashes between nomads and IDPs in the Hassa Hissa camp in West Darfur by intervening with camp leadership and local sheikhs to stabilize the situation, and deploying troops to the area to prevent the confrontation from escalating.

Mr. LeRoy stressed that “as its numbers and capabilities increase, the Mission will be able to do much more of this good work. In this context we will work with Member States to fill key gaps in the Mission’s force composition.”

The number of peacekeeping troops on the ground falls far short of the 26,000 blue helmets authorized by the Security Council last year. Less than 12,500 uniformed personnel, including troops, military observers and police officers, are in place across Darfur and the mission is also short of almost half of the civilian staff it requires to be at full capacity, with just under 3,000 posts recruited.

Mr. LeRoy underscored the need for Member States to provide the units and equipment previously pledged to UNAMID, including 18 helicopters and additional units dealing with logistics, heavy transport, medium transport and aerial reconnaissance.

“I reiterate my appeal to Council members to urge troop and police contributing countries in a position to provide these capabilities to do so without further delay,” he said, adding that “Deploying UNAMID to its authorized strength as it endeavours to undertake its mandated activities has been, and remains, our priority.”

Emphasizing that only a sustainable political settlement between the parties can bring peace to Darfur, Mr. LeRoy said, “It is therefore deeply regrettable that another year has passed while the parties continue to engage in military action rather than investing themselves fully in political negotiations.”

Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, told the Council that she believed UNAMID can reach the target of 60 per cent deployment by the end of this year, with the possible exception of around 200 unarmed police officers because of the volatile security situation in Darfur.

“We have set ourselves a deadline of reaching 80 per cent deployment by the end of March and the challenges we face in reaching this goal are by now well known,” said Ms. Malcorra.

“In this regard, I would like to state that the readiness of troop contributing countries and police contributing countries to deploy military and formed police units will be a particularly important factor in our collective efforts to finally bring UNAMID to its authorised strength,” she added.

ENDS

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