Thursday, October 20, 2005

Annan urges international community to apply immediate pressure for peace in Darfur

Source: United Nations News Service

Date: 20 Oct 2005
The resurgence of violence in Sudan's Darfur region and the Government's continued unwillingness or inability to restrain armed tribal militias, may threaten the peace talks, and the international community needs to apply renewed pressure for a successful outcome, the United Nations Secretary-General says in a report.

"The month of September witnessed an alarming deterioration in the security situation in all three Darfur states," and the violence has sent displaced persons fleeing from camps, stymied humanitarian agencies trying to provide relief, and produced fear among people whose families have been killed or attacked, says Mr. Annan.

A growing divide within the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SMLA) is a potential obstacle at the negotiation table for continued peace talks in the Nigerian capitol of Abuja, Mr. Kofi Annan says to the Security Council in his monthly update. Increasing reports of gross human rights violations, and the worsening violence against civilians could further threaten the country's steps towards peace, he adds.

Violent incidents have been initiated by all warring factions, including the Sudanese Armed Forces, the Popular Defence Forces, and the SMLA in Northern and Southern Darfur, while banditry and hijackings have brought humanitarian operations practically to a standstill along all roads leading to Geneina in Western Darfur, he reports.

Thirty-five internally displaced persons (IDPs) were killed, 10 were wounded, and 4,000 IDPs and villagers were forced to flee during an attack by bandits on 28 September. Rapes and attacks on women have increased in Western and Southern Darfur, and at least a third of the victims are estimated to be girls under the age of 18, he says.

The abduction of children has continued during this upswing in violence in violation of international and Sudanese law, Mr Annan says, and UN human rights officers have reported cases of torture, sexual and gender-based attacks.

"Armed international personnel were not immune to the violence either," he adds, with three soldiers from the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) wounded in September after being shot at by unknown assailants.

"The Government's record during the reporting period is troubling because of the evidence that its forces triggered some of the incidents, and because there are clear indications that, in many cases, the tribal militia operated with enabled support from the Government," he says.

The Darfur conflict erupted in February 2003 when two rebel groups demanded an end to economic marginalization and sought power sharing within the Sudanese state. Since then, 1.8 million people have been internally displaced, 200,000 have fled to neighbouring Chad, and 3.3 million Darfurians have needed humanitarian assistance.

An increase in AMIS forces to protect innocent civilians and help restore order is badly needed, Mr. Annan says, which will require additional funding. He also calls on world leaders to apply pressure on the warring factions in Darfur, in particular on the SMLA, "to steer the current round of talks in Abuja towards a positive outcome."

"This is a crucial moment for Darfur and no time must be lost," he adds.

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