Darfur and other areas of the north
In March, UNICEF welcomed the signing of a joint communiqué by the Government of National Unity and the United Nations that extends an existing 'Moratorium of Restrictions' to 31 January 2008. It is hoped that this Moratorium will improve safe access for humanitarian workers in Darfur, in part by alleviating some of the beaurocratic obstacles to gaining access to the area. The extension signals a recognition that in order to maintain the improved levels of health and nutrition in Darfur, access for humanitarian staff must be facilitated. The Moratorium also re-establishes that UN staff may travel within Sudan using only their UN-issued identification card.
Four relocations of humanitarian staff took place in Darfur during March and threats to humanitarian agencies continued. There were two attempted hijackings and seven humanitarian vehicles/convoys were ambushed and/or looted with ten humanitarian staff temporarily abducted. Two African Union soldiers - part of the protection force in Darfur - were shot and killed, and another was wounded during the month. Shots were also fired at an African Union helicopter and one of their vehicles was hijacked during the month.
Humanitarian access in other areas of the north also remained difficult, particularly because there is no communiqué in place to govern access issues and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) - which is meant to protect humanitarian workers and ensure their access to areas of need - is often not honoured.
Some of the pending issues surrounding the implementation of the Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA) were discussed at the end of March. Progress in implementation of the ESPA includes addressing issues that could improve access for humanitarian workers and could accelerate reconstruction and development work in the east.
In Unity State of Upper Nile, Guit County was tense due to on-going tribal clashes which hindered the movement of Mass Measles Campaign teams between Rubkona and Leer Counties.
There was also some insecurity reported in Equatoria during March, due to an abduction of civilians along the Juba-Yei road by an unknown armed group. The UN Deputy Designated Official restricted movement for UN personnel along that road, with armed escorts mandatory for travel. The situation in Juba remained stable although militia to the east of Juba and the presence of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) to the south remain a concern for UN staff and operations. In Tambura County, fighting between the LRA and the SPLA was reported and all agencies, programmes and staff operating in the area have been advised to take all security precautions inside the town and ensure a robust armed escort whenever moving by road.
An anti-tank mine was found on a route that was previously cleared for travel, approximately 45km east of Wau, Western Bahr el Ghazal. Traffic was suspended on this route while UNMAS re-assessed the road. Ongoing clearance of mines, and awareness of the dangers of various types of mines and unexploded ordinance, are critical in ensuring humanitarian access and the safety of both the population and aid agencies travelling in Sudan.
Resumption of LRA talks a possibility On 16 March, the Lord's Resistance Army expressed a willingness to return to peace talks in Juba provided the Government of Southern Sudan improved security for its members. It is considered likely that a date will be set for resumption of the talks, and at the end of the month meetings were ongoing between the Ugandan government peace negotiating team land LRA rebel leader Joseph Kony in Ri-Kwangba, on the border between Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.