6003rd Meeting* (PM)
Peacekeeping Officials Say Operation Needs Capability to Protect Civilians, Staff, as It Deploys amid 'The Day-to-Day Tumult and Tragedy of Darfur'
Despite the high-risk environment in the Sudan's Darfur region, the full, robust deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) could effectively contribute to security -- if given adequate support, Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council this afternoon.
"Increased numbers and, more importantly, increased capability will give UNAMID a chance to implement the wide ranging mandate given to it by the Security Council," said Mr. Le Roy. He was joined in his briefing to the Council by Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, as well as the representative of the Sudan. "Above all, it will give UNAMID the tools to protect civilians as initially envisaged by the Security Council," he added.
Describing his visit to Darfur from 8 to 11 October, Mr. Le Roy said he had witnessed many signs that the mission was taking shape, including the near-completion of the "impressive" camp in Nyala, the forging of effective relations between the mission and the humanitarian community in West Darfur, and assurances from Government officials that every effort would be made to support the deployment. New units were arriving, new sites were being built. "The overall picture is remarkably dynamic," he said.
There was, nevertheless, a long way to go, he said. There were locations where personnel were seriously under-resourced and living and working in extremely difficult conditions. That was why there was still intense focus on deployment, with the mission's senior leadership heavily preoccupied with political, logistical and operational complexities, and why significant military and police assets were being dedicated to escorting convoys and protecting construction sites. In addition, the deployment was not being carried out in isolation from what he called "the day-to-day tumult and tragedy of Darfur". There was still fighting between the Government, rebels and militias, along with displacement, fighting and rape. There had also been 158 carjackings of United Nations vehicles this year alone.
"It is in this environment, short the envisaged number of troops, transport and aviation capabilities, and with infrastructure still being put in place, that the United Nations must act," he said. UNAMID was already protecting civilians, he said, providing the example of the constant vigilance of UNAMID police at the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons.
During his visit, he said, he had discussed how the Kalma experience could be replicated by increasing patrols and through outreach to humanitarian partners. Achieving that goal would require a unified effort and courageous leadership from the mission, the Council, Headquarters, donors, troop contributing countries and all other stakeholders, he said. Regarding the Government, the message he got from Sudanese officials was that it was universally supportive of UNAMID at all levels, and that there was now much more clarity on what was expected of it, the African Union and the United Nations.
Introducing the UNAMID report [see background], he said that it contained a summary of the work of the African Union-United Nations Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, Djibrill Bassole. He confirmed that Mr. Bassole continued his intensive consultations with the Government and rebel leaders and was preparing for the Sudan People's Initiative, as well as maintaining contact with the Qatar mediation initiative. He reminded the Council that the end of the Darfur conflict would come through a negotiated political settlement, which would require the parties to decide that military action must stop.
Ms. Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, added that the required systems and planning to achieve the targets of 60 per cent deployment by the end of the year, and 80 per cent by the end of March 2009, had been put in place. Those revised targets reflected a scaling back of initial, extremely ambitious projections. Although the new targets were still ambitious, they could be achieved. The objective was, as always, the deployment of the maximum number of capable units to the locations where they were required in the shortest time possible.
In order to accomplish that, she said, troop and police contributors would have to mobilize personnel and equipment, donors would have to fill resource gaps, and the Government would have to deliver on its commitment to support deployment efforts. The United Nations had to coordinate that complex process -- "a daunting task". Some 6,000 sea containers full of equipment, for instance, were currently at the United Nations logistics hub in El Obeid, Central Sudan. Getting that equipment to the mission was central to the success of the deployment plan. Four new transport companies had been brought on line to do so, in addition to an air-bridge, which was being put in place to lift high priority equipment, the increasing use of rail, and sometimes direct air lifting from troop contributing capitals to Darfur.
Another major pillar of the deployment plan related to engineering work, she said, such as construction of new camps, expansion of old camps and putting in place critical infrastructure. The military engineering units needed to show maximum flexibility in their work throughout the mission area on a wide variety of tasks.
She informed the Council that she would return to Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, next month for a second tripartite meeting with the Government and the African Union. The first meeting, on 7 October, had been extremely useful as critical areas for cooperation and specific requests for Government support had been identified. The second meeting would provide an opportunity to evaluate concrete progress against commitments. "It will allow us to put our ears to the ground," she said.
The representative of the Sudan first expressed the condolences and sympathy of the people and Government of his country for the deaths of the Chinese workers he said had been killed during a terrorist attack by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Kordofan. That crime deserved strong condemnation, he said. Despite the fact that that crime had been committed in the context of several other actions during a period where there was a momentum for peace, the Sudanese Government was always open to negotiations without hesitation or conditions. The Government had renewed the ceasefire with the conviction that there was no alternative to peace.
He said peace was the only option for the Sudanese people, as indicated by the fact that the people's initiative for a settlement in Darfur was based on national consensus. That initiative was complementary to the efforts of the Joint Chief Mediator, the Qatar initiative and other efforts. He hoped the international community would support those efforts. Several committees established to submit proposals had accomplished their tasks, including the committees on returns, justice and reconciliation, information and security. The role of the Security Council now was to urge the armed movements to join the national consensus.
UNAMID's deployment was progressing reasonably, he said, reaffirming the Sudanese Government's commitment to remove all obstacles to the rollout. The delay in deployment was not, according to the report, due to the Government. During the 7 October tripartite meeting, an agreement had been signed on establishment of liaison offices, the use of airports and custom clearances, among other things. His country was completely committed to that agreement, which had also addressed the facilitation of humanitarian operations and protection of humanitarian workers.
He said the appointed Prosecutor General was carrying out his responsibilities regarding justice and accountability in Darfur in an impartial and professional manner, and added that a special court would be established. At the same time, however, no one could estimate the real threat of the "shameful procedures" sought by the Prosecutor General of the International Criminal Court. The majority of the international community, as represented by the Non-Aligned Movement, the African Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), had warned for the tragic consequences of such measures.
The work of the good offices to improve relations between the Sudan and Chad was progressing well, he continued, adding that the ambassadors were set to be restored to the respective capitals. The Sudanese Government called on the United Nations to fulfil its obligations regarding the full implementation of the heavy support package, and called on the international community to provide for the logistical needs of the mission. He appealed to the international community to work promptly and effectively with the armed groups so that they would lay down their arms.
Following those statements, the representative of the United States took the floor to condemn the abduction and killing of Chinese workers in South Kordafan, and called for a thorough investigation so that the perpetrators could be brought to justice. He condemned, in addition, all violence by both the Government and the rebels. The Sudanese Government had a special responsibility, however, and he said it must stop military operations in critical areas; using aircraft with United Nations markings; accepting impunity for crimes against humanity; and other breaches of Security Council demands.
The meeting began at 3 p.m. and ended at 3:45 p.m.
The Security Council met today to consider the report of the Secretary-General on the deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) (document S/2008/659), which warns that the security conditions in the Sudan's western Darfur region remain so poor that the mission cannot operate effectively. The Secretary-General urges the parties to the conflict to immediately stop fighting and to start working towards a peaceful settlement.
In the report, the Secretary-General maintains that the Sudanese Government and the region's many rebel movements "continue to pursue a military solution to the conflict" and they have made little progress in implementing the 2006 peace accord that was supposed to either end or reduce the fighting.
He says that the mission itself -- known as UNAMID -- is increasingly the target of armed attacks and banditry, obstructing its ability to deploy rapidly and to fulfil its mandate to protect civilians and help implement the 2006 peace agreement. The Operation thus faces divergent requirements: to deploy rapidly, enabling it to increase its ability to protect civilians, while also taking all measures to reduce risk to its own personnel. "Reinforcements are slowly arriving, but the security situation and difficult environment in Darfur have delayed the arrival of equipment for incoming contingents," he states, noting that it is more than a year since the operation was authorized by the Security Council.
So far, just over 10,500 uniformed personnel, including troops, military observers and police officers, are in place across Darfur, the report notes, far short of the estimated 26,000 blue helmets required when UNAMID reaches full deployment. More than 2,500 civilian staff have also been recruited -- or 46 per cent of the total number of authorized posts.
Meanwhile, even bringing equipment and basic supplies into Darfur is exposing UNAMID staff to higher risk, given the volatility of conditions on the ground. In addition, mission personnel often undertake patrols and provide force protection escorts without adequate communication and transportation assets. UNAMID civilian personnel also work and live in an extremely unsafe environment.
A United Nations security assessment team which visited Darfur and the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, earlier this month is now finalizing recommendations to improve staff safety and security, the report says. The effectiveness of the mission, however, also depends on Sudanese Government cooperation on issues such as the freedom of movement of UNAMID staff, customs clearance, visas and the re-supply of the operation by air, rail and road. The Secretary-General stresses that the Government has a responsibility to stop its aerial bombardments and military offensives and to "take concrete steps" towards disarming the so-called Janjaweed militiamen and other groups allied to Government forces.
"I call on the Government to comply with its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law, in particular with regard to the protection of civilians," the Secretary-General says. The report also calls on all rebel groups to commit to an immediate cessation of hostilities, start serious negotiations with the Government and fully cooperate with the peacekeeping mission.
He stresses that UNAMID, despite its broad mandate for the protection of civilians and assistance to peace implementation, is not designed to create a sustainable solution to the Darfur crisis. That is the responsibility of the parties to the conflict. In addition, he reiterates that Member States need to provide the units and equipment still missing from UNAMID, including 24 helicopters and additional units dealing with logistics, heavy transport, medium transport and aerial reconnaissance.
The 6002nd Meeting was closed.
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