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Statement by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsousto the Security Council: Intensified Fighting to Blame for Rapidly Deteriorating Situation, Large-scale Displacement in Darfur

6 Apr 2016

Sudan’s Permanent Representative Cites ‘Contradictions’ in Secretary-General’s Report, ‘Hidden Agenda’ for Ongoing UNAMID Presence

Intensified fighting since January had resulted in a rapidly worsening security situation and large-scale displacement in Darfur, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations told the Security Council today.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report (document S/2016/268) on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), Under-Secretary-General Hervé Ladsous said the security situation in that western region of Sudan had been characterized by fighting between Government forces and fighters of the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdel Wahid (SLA/AW) since his last briefing on 25 January.

The Government had carried out military operations against rebel-held positions in Jebel Marra, which it had characterized as a success, he reported.  According to the Government, it had taken control of the entire Jebel Marra region with the exception of a few pockets of resistance, he said, noting that the SLA/AW had denied those claims, maintaining that it had pushed the Government offensive back.  The escalation of fighting in Jebel Marra had led to large-scale displacement, especially from mid-January to late March, and humanitarian organizations estimated that at least 138,000 people from that region were newly displaced as of 31 March.

He went on to state that due to the Government’s restrictions on access, the exact number of civilian causalities could not be ascertained, adding that UNAMID and humanitarian actors had been prevented from addressing the protection and humanitarian needs of the displaced.  While emphasizing the difficulty of establishing an objective assessment of the fighting due to the access restrictions, he said it was clear that there had been continued clashes and aerial bombardments.

Meanwhile, the security situation in other parts of Darfur remained fragile, with underlying tensions among and between local tribes over access to land, water and other resources, as well as their use and management, he noted.  That had led to persistent outbreaks of intercommunal conflict despite measures taken by local authorities to contain the clashes.  UNAMID continued to support Government efforts to mediate those conflicts and advocated consistently for addressing their root causes in a comprehensive manner, he said.

However, the proliferation of small arms and the presence of various militia groups had led to a rise in criminality and various types of banditry against civilians, he said.  In spite of some improvements, the general weakness of the rule of law across Darfur had resulted in such violations going largely unpunished.  Despite the volatile security situation and considerable challenges, however, UNAMID remained steadfast in the implementation of its strategic priorities, including the protection of civilian and displaced populations, he stressed.

The political process to settle the conflict remained polarized, he noted.  A referendum on Darfur’s administrative status — to determine whether it would become a single region or retain its current five subregional divisions — was scheduled to take place from 11 to 13 April.  Despite several meetings held under the auspices of the African Union High-level Implementation Panel, progress in political efforts to reach a sustainable resolution of the conflict through inclusive dialogue remained elusive.

Underlining the great importance of UNAMID and the Government pursuing a renewed partnership, he recalled that the United Nations, African Union and the Government had held a strategic tripartite panel meeting on 22 March.  As elaborated in the meeting’s outcome, concrete actions by the Government were required in terms of lifting restrictions on the mission’s operations, among them delays in clearing customs, issuing visas and granting access to all areas, including conflict zones.

The Council then heard from Omar Dahab Fadl Mohamed (Sudan), who said there was an obvious contradiction between certain paragraphs of the Secretary-General’s report on the one hand, and the declarations by the Head of the African Union, the Special Representative of the United Nations in Sudan and South Sudan, and the Joint United Nations-African Union Representative of UNAMID on the other.  Such a contradiction necessitated an investigation of the report’s contents, he emphasized.  The President of Sudan was obliged to implement the recommendations that participants in the national dialogue had adopted unanimously or by a 90 per cent majority, and subjecting such important decisions to “individual political whims” was a very serious matter.

He went on to recall that the SLA/AW had launched an attack against UNAMID forces near the Kotm region on 1 January 2016, adding that “we possess documented evidence” of the group’s threats to kill citizens should they refuse to pay the ransom imposed on them.  “Any dialogue anywhere in the world should not be pawned on those criminals,” he stressed.  “All noble endeavours to overcome fighting in Darfur, including the Doha Peace document […] are being sacrificed and questioned,” he added.  The practical agreement on the exit strategy elaborated by the joint tripartite panel had been thwarted and abrogated in New York.  Indeed, there was evidence of a “hidden agenda” behind UNAMID’s continuing presence in Darfur, contrary to the calls embedded in the 2007 Security Council resolution that had established the mission.

Throughout Darfur, large numbers of internally displaced persons had managed to return to their villages, grow and reap their crops, he stated, adding that preparations were under way for the return of 100,000 others to their villages in East and West Darfur.  The gangs of the Abdel Wahid movement in Jebel Marra had been halted and the roads between that region and other parts of Sudan had been re-opened.  Stressing that that situation did not contravene international law or the Doha peace document, as stated in the report, he voiced concern over that document’s frequent references to the Darfur conflict’s racial dimension.  “This only presages a deleterious interference leading to fuelling and intensifying feelings of hatred,” he cautioned.  Such negative references stood in the way of stability in Darfur, serving only to deepen and perpetuate the conflict.

The meeting began at 10:06 a.m. and ended at 10:35 a.m.