Dec 22, 2006 (UNITED NATIONS) — Secretary-General Kofi Annan told Sudan’s president that support from all key parties including Khartoum is essential if the United Nations is to fund and strengthen the beleaguered African Union force in conflict-wracked Darfur, according to a letter circulated at U.N. headquarters.
He stressed that the three-phase U.N. plan to help curb escalating violence in Darfur, which culminates with a hybrid African Union-U.N. force, must be accepted in its entirety.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir remains fiercely opposed to a U.N. Security Council resolution adopted in August that called for more than 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers to replace the overwhelmed AU force in Darfur. He claims a U.N. force would compromise Sudan’s sovereignty and try to recolonize the country.
Annan’s letter, released Thursday, will be delivered to President Omar al-Bashir by the secretary-general’s special envoy Ahmedou Ould Abdallah who arrived in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on Wednesday. It follows phone calls between the Sudanese leader and the U.N. secretary-general over the weekend on the standoff over U.N. participation in Darfur.
In the letter, Annan said a ceasefire in Darfur is “imperative” because of the significant increase in violence in the war-torn region over the last few weeks, including an upsurge in attacks on civilians by militias. To achieve a ceasefire, he said, efforts to get all rebel groups and militias to join the Darfur Peace Agreement must be immediately reactivated.
Annan stressed that the three-step U.N. plan to beef up the 7,000-strong African Union force was agreed to in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Nov. 16 by the 53-nation African body and the international community and later endorsed at a Nov. 30 summit of the AU’s Peace and Security Council — which includes Sudan.
“The unequivocal commitment of all stakeholders to these measures and the active support of your government would be essential to take forward and secure comprehensive United Nations funding for the three phases, which should be seen as a continuum,” Annan wrote.
The first phase would add 105 military officers, 33 U.N. police, 48 international staffers, 36 armored personnel carriers, night-vision goggles, and Global Positioning equipment to the African Union force, according to a U.N. report last month.
Annan wrote to al-Bashir that U.N. personnel and equipment in the first phase “must be deployed without delay.”
A second, larger support package would include the deployment of several hundred U.N. military, police and civilian personnel to the African Union mission along with substantial aviation and logistical assets.
Annan told the Sudanese president that every effort would be made to find African troops for the U.N. force, but if that proves impossible it will use “a broader pool of troop contributing countries.”
The third phase would be the AU-U.N. hybrid operation, with the two organizations jointly appointing a special envoy to lead it and the military commanders, and substantial U.N. involvement in its command and control structure — though al-Bashir had questions about the size and the command issues.
Annan told al-Bashir in the letter that he was proceeding with the proposal for the AU-U.N. hybrid mission on the assumption that its minimum strength would be 17,300 military personnel, 3,300 civilian police and 16 additional police units.
A special envoy would be appointed jointly by the AU and the U.N., and the force commander would report to the special representative, he said. The Darfur operation would also be enhanced by U.N. command and control systems and equipment already in Sudan, where the United Nations has a peacekeeping mission in the south, he said.
A 10,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping force is monitoring a January 2005 peace agreement that ended a 21-year civil war between Sudan’s mostly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south.
Al-Bashir has been quoted as saying he did not want any U.N. peacekeepers to wear the organization’s distinctive blue beret. But Annan told al-Bashir that the U.N. would follow the agreement with the Sudanese government that led to U.N. troops being deployed in southern Sudan last year — and that requires U.N. peacekeepers to wear blue berets.
Fighting in Darfur began in February 2003 when rebels from black African tribes took up arms, complaining of discrimination and oppression by Sudan’s Arab-dominated government. The government is accused of unleashing Arab tribal militia known as the Janjaweed against civilians in a campaign of murder, rape and arson — a charge the government denies.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced by three years of fighting between rebels and government troops allied with Arab militia known as janjaweed.
Annan told al-Bashir he was encouraged by the Sudanese Council of Ministers’ endorsement of the Nov. 30 Abuja summit communique.
“This is a constructive step which we take as a signal of your government’s intention to work in earnest to take forward the decisions made in Addis Ababa and Abuja,” he said.
“Through the combined efforts of all concerned, we will be able to bring to an end the enormous suffering of the people of Darfur and restore the long-awaited peace and stability in the region,” Annan said.
Annan announced Monday that former General Assembly president Jan Eliasson, who was also Sweden’s foreign minister, will take up a new role early next year to help in diplomatic efforts to speed up the solution to the Darfur crisis.
Eliasson will help provide a transition between Annan and his successor, Ban Ki-moon, who takes over on Jan. 1, on the issue, she said.