Mohamed Ibn Chambas addresses the media during the press conference. Photo by Albert González Farran, UNAMID
Khartoum, 11 August 2014 - It gives me a great pleasure to welcome you to this press conference today. The last one was quite a while ago (January 2014). We should do this more often and I hope to invite you next to our Mission headquarters in El Fasher.
As you are aware, the United Nations Security Council on 7 August held it session to consider the Secretary-General’s Report on UNAMID for the period of April to June of 2014 and the renewal of the Mission’s mandate. I was invited to brief the Members of the Security Council on the latest developments in Darfur and the work of the Mission. I have just returned from those consultations in New York. Today’s press conference gives me an opportunity to update on my activities as Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator and to inform you about recent activities of the Mission. At the end of this briefing my Spokesperson will open the floor for questions that you may have.
To begin with, I informed the Members of the Security Council on the general security situation in Darfur and the factors effecting or impeding our operations. I observed that fighting between Government forces and armed movements reduced considerably during the past months. Nevertheless, intermittent inter-communal violence and acts of banditry and criminality continue to be a challenge for the civilian population of Darfur, UNAMID peacekeepers and pose a threat to the safety and security of humanitarian personnel. And sometimes even Government of Sudan military and Police personnel.
I then highlighted to the Council the humanitarian situation in Darfur, where 385,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by conflict since the beginning of 2014. The source of the data is the UN Country Team and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The plight of these internally displaced people is compounded by the reduced presence of humanitarian actors and the reduction of humanitarian assistance on the ground as a result of capacity gaps, funding shortfalls and the fragile security environment.
Despite these challenges as the Secretary-General’s report notes, humanitarian access has improved. According to preliminary July access monitoring date provided by OCHA, there were 51 attempts in July to reach various affected areas in Darfur. Of these, the authorities declined only two humanitarian access requests to reach Adila and Abu Karinka in East Darfur State. Similarly for the reporting period there were 21 access denials for UNAMID compared to 72 in the previous quarter.
UNAMID continues to extend technical, logistic and programmatic support to the local Government and traditional institutions to raise awareness and improve the protective environment for vulnerable populations in Darfur. For example, technical support to local reconciliation initiatives was provided in the Rezeigat and Nawaiba conflicts in Central Darfur; between the Ma’alia and the Southern Rezeigat in East Darfur; and between the Northern Rezeigat and Beni Hussein in North Darfur. There are also instances where UNAMID support helped to prevent, mitigate or minimize the potential high toll of fatalities as a result of the violent tribal clashes on the civilian population. UNAMID also continues to provide, in partnership with the United Nations Country Team, physical protection and facilitation of humanitarian assistance to civilians who sought refuge around our team sites when under threats of attacks.
I also assured the Council that UNAMID troops and police are becoming more proactive and adopting a most robust posture in protecting civilians. Sadly, on 24 May, we lost a peacekeeper who was killed when UNAMID intervened to facilitate a mediation meeting in Kabkabiya.
I informed the Members of the Council that some progress has been made in the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. These included formal launching of the Darfur Internal Dialogue and Consultation and the formation of a 17-member Implementation Committee to lead the process and ensure local ownership; the release by the State of Qatar of 10 million US dollars, out of its pledged 88 million US dollars, towards financing the Darfur Development Strategy Foundational and Short-Term projects; and steps towards the verification and integration of Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)-Sudan combatants under the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) security arrangements.
The members of the Security Council were supportive of UNAMID’s continued efforts to assist the parties in the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur and noted the importance for the parties to fulfil their commitments if the Doha Document and its’ supporting structures such as the Darfur Development Strategy are to have an impact on the ground. They expressed the consensus of the international community in welcoming the decreased clashes between Government and armed movements over recent months hoping this marked a commitment by all parties to a de-escalation of the conflict. They noted with concern the upsurge inter-communal conflict with it the resulting humanitarian impact and urged UNAMID to continue with its increasing robust protection of civilian strategy.
Let me now share with you a summary of my recent mediation efforts as Joint Chief Mediator, which is aimed at direct negotiations between the Government of Sudan and non-signatory armed movements. As I had informed the Security Council, I have intensified coordination with the African Union High-level Implementation Panel and the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary General to Sudan and South Sudan, President Mbeki and Haile Menkerios respectively, as called for by both the African Union Peace and Security Council and the United Nations Security Council. We agreed to explore the possibility of organizing a preparatory meeting, as soon as possible, which would involve the representatives of the armed movements and the Government of the Sudan at a mutually convenient venue. This meeting is expected to explore ways of addressing the humanitarian and security situation in Darfur; deliberate on how the parties can bridge their differences and make progress towards a comprehensive settlement of the Darfur conflict. The United Nations Security Council was supportive of my efforts to work with the African Union High-level Implementation Panel and find synergies that would allow the DDPD to feed into and support the independent and sovereign national dialogue process in Sudan.
As you all know, UNAMID has embarked on a comprehensive set of reforms shortly after I assumed duties as Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator. The roadmap for these reforms was set out in Resolution 2148 (2014) adopted by the United Nations Security Council in April of this year.
Resolution 2148 provided us with the opportunity to rethink and re-evaluate the overall structure of the Mission through a comprehensive review of civilian, military and police components to maximise operational capability and achieve cost efficiency. It also helped us to refocus our efforts around three strategic priorities defined by the Security Council namely: protection of civilians; facilitation of the delivery of humanitarian assistance; and mediation between the Government of Sudan and non-signatory armed movements on the basis of the DDPD while taking into account ongoing democratic transformation at the national level, and support for the mediation of communities in conflict, including measures to address its root causes.
Today we have gone a long way towards completing these reforms despite the aforementioned impediments and the constantly changing nature of the conflict in Darfur. We are looking forward to the renewal of the Mission’s mandate, so that a more efficient and agile UNAMID is able to better serve and support the people of Darfur in their pursuit of peace, stability and prosperity.
In conclusion, it seems to me that the challenge for us all remains how best to impress upon all the parties involved in the Darfur conflict that a military solution and the status quo is unsustainable. Towards this end, there is broad and general consensus that the call for national dialogue by His Excellency President Omar Al-Bashir is in line with the search for a “holistic approach to the challenges of peace, governance and democracy in Sudan,” I’m quoting the AU Peace and Security Council Communiqué of 9 July 2014. It is also an historic opportunity to resolve the Darfur crisis and other crises in the Sudan. I take this opportunity to reiterate my call upon the non-signatory movements to take advantage of the proposed national dialogue and upon the Government to make the security arrangements to ensure their participation. The proposed national dialogue is an initiative that deserves the support and engagement by all Sudanese and the international community for a new beginning.
I thank you all for your attention.
[Read here the question and answers session that followed the opening remarks.]