A camera man during the press conference in Khartoum. Photo by Albert González Farran
Khartoum, 12 April 2012 - The last time we met, I briefed you on several of the major developments and challenges in Darfur. Now, six months later, I am using this opportunity to once again update you on the work of UNAMID and the situation in Darfur.
Today, I will highlight UNAMID’s role in bringing about peace to the region and the obstacles we face.
I will start with the security situation as there can be no peace without stability.
Over the past several months, there has been a decrease in clashes and inter-tribal conflict. There has also been a reduction in criminal activities against civilians, including banditry, hijacking and kidnapping and fewer attacks on humanitarian convoys. After travelling throughout Darfur and listening to the needs of many communities, the Mission increased patrols from 100 a day to an average of 160 per day in the first quarter of 2012.
Our patrols have not only increased in number, they have also been more robust and are covering larger geographic areas.
Concerning the humanitarian situation, it has been relatively stable. On a welcome note, we have observed an increase in the number of IDPs returning voluntarily to their villages of origin, particularly in West Darfur. According to OCHA, as of 10 April 2012, an estimated 109,000 of those internally displaced have voluntarily returned. Some 31,000 Sudanese refugees from Chad have also returned to various localities in West Darfur. In this regard, UNAMID has provided logistical and security support to humanitarian agencies assisting these returnees.
The Mission has also focused on implementing Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) in the areas of water sanitation, education, health, rule of law, and livelihood. From schools built in North Darfur by our troops from Rwanda to agricultural workshops and well drilling by our Thai contingent in West Darfur, we aim our QIPs to bolster the work of the Country Team on early recovery and development through targeted small-scale projects. They also bring our peacekeepers closer to the communities they are here to serve. At present some 500 QIPs have been implemented and more than 100 QIPS are in the pipeline.
Despite these gains, there remain challenges. The Mission continues to face restrictions on movement. This has been an ongoing problem in Jebel Marra and most recently in the Kutum area. Many of our peacekeepers operate in the most difficult of circumstances and several have paid the ultimate price in protecting those they are here to serve—the people of Darfur. In the past six months, we have lost six personnel who were killed while on patrols.
Let me also say that my heart goes out to the people of Kabkabiya. UNAMID reiterates that in defending its premises from armed protestors trying to break into the compound, peacekeepers acted within their rules of engagement and did not cause the deaths of anyone. We are here to protect civilians and anything to the contrary does not reflect the actual events. Nonetheless I dispatched a multi-disciplinary team to investigate the circumstances leading to the tragic events and I also called for a joint Government of Sudan – UNAMID investigation.
On the political front, progress has been steady since the signing of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) on 14 July 2011.
In support of the Document, the Mission began its work in implementing the Ceasefire Commission. The monitoring and verification mechanism, chaired by the UNAMID Force Commander, last month conducted verification exercises of the Liberation and Justice Movement dispositions in Darfur. Despite some obstacles, the exercise was satisfactorily conducted.
In December, the Joint Commission, designed to resolve disputes among parties referred to it by the Ceasefire Commission, was inaugurated. And, in the following month, UNAMID hosted in El Fasher the second meeting of the Implementation Follow-up Commission, the mechanism used to monitor the implementation of the DDPD.
With the launching, on 8 February 2012, of the Darfur Regional Authority (DRA), the principal instrument for the implementation of the DDPD and chaired by Dr. El Tijjani Siesi, new opportunities have arisen for the Mission to assist in bringing concrete peace dividends to the people of Darfur.
UNAMID continued to provide technical and logistic assistance, as appropriate, to the efforts of the signatories and civil society groups to inform and engage Darfuris on the peace document. We have facilitated more than 80 workshops throughout Darfur. These have been attended by approximately 15,000 citizens.
In my capacity as Joint Chief Mediator ad interim, I have also worked towards the resumption of dialogue and negotiations between the Government of the Sudan and the non-signatory movements with a view to ensuring that the Doha peace process is inclusive and is brought to a timely conclusion.
In this regard, I visited Juba, N’djamena, and Ouagadougou in February and solicited support of the regional leaders for the mediation’s next steps. I have been encouraged by their willingness to support our initiatives.
With the further implementation and commitment to the Darfur peace document, an improved humanitarian situation and a reduction in clashes between parties to the conflict, the Mission has entered a new phase.
As you may know, we have been directed by the Security Council—as stipulated in its resolution last year—to conduct a review of our uniformed personnel. The recommendations that will come out of this comprehensive review reflect the security improvements in many areas of Darfur, the changing needs and priorities of the humanitarian actors and increased positive engagement by the Government of the Sudan and the armed movements.
While the details of the outcome of the review have not been finalized, I assure you that the Mission will not waiver in carrying out its commitment to Darfur’s people.
I do not wish to underestimate the significant challenges that remain in Darfur. The nature of the situation has indeed changed, but UNAMID’s presence remains as critical today if not more to help support the peace process.
Let me conclude by commending the work of all parties and ask those who are yet to come on board to join this cooperative effort. It’s about making peace for the good of all Darfuris, who have suffered too deeply and for too long as a result of the conflict. This is the only way forward and failure is not an option for us.
Click here for the JSR Gambari’s questions-and-answers session with the press that followed the statement.