Ongoing Darfur Conflict Threatens UN Mission
Ongoing Darfur Conflict Threatens UN-African Union Mission, Aid Efforts – Ban
New York, Dec 18 2008 4:10PM
Violent clashes between the warring factions in conflict-ravaged Darfur threaten humanitarian work and the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping operation in the Sudanese region, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns in his latest report on the mission, urging all parties to end hostilities immediately.
Fighting on the western flank of Sudan “and displacement continue, humanitarian operations are at risk, clashes between the parties occur with regrettable regularity and the parties have not reached a negotiated peace agreement,” Mr. Ban writes.
In this environment the UN-AU hybrid operation in Darfur, known as UNAMID, has focused on the protection of civilians, but are hampered by a severely under-deployed force.
The Secretary-General notes that almost one year after handing over peacekeeping responsibility to UNAMID, the number of troops on the ground falls far short of the 26,000 blue helmets authorized by the Security Council.
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.
In addition, Mr. Ban reiterates that UN Member States need 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.
The effectiveness of the mission also depends on Sudan’s cooperation, Mr. Ban says, while welcoming President Al-Bashir’s statement last month saying that the Government had called a cessation to hostilities.
“However, I am greatly disappointed that military activity by the Government continues,” he says, adding “The reports of violence, clashes and aerial bombardments since the unilateral ceasefire declaration of 12 November are of serious concern.”
He stresses that a genuine ceasefire is an essential precondition for talks necessary for a peaceful resolution to the conflict to begin.
“The cessation of hostilities is also required to facilitate delivery of vital humanitarian assistance,” the Secretary-General says, adding “I am deeply concerned that insecurity continues to seriously affect civilians and hamper the humanitarian community’s efforts to provide them with life-saving assistance.”
He also calls on the Government in Khartoum to comply with its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, in particular with respect to protection of civilians.
“There are still disturbing reports of intimidation and harassment of internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially women, who are the victims of marauding militia groups.”
The Security Council will discuss the report tomorrow when it is briefed on the UN-AU force in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed since fighting erupted in 2003 between Government forces, allied militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, and rebels. Some 2.7 million others have also been forced from their homes and now live as refugees or as IDPs.