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Sudan Tribune

Plural news and views on Sudan

UN, Darfur command and control

By William M. Reilly

June 8, 2007 (UNITED NATIONS) — UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sent a revised report to the Security Council spelling out the compromise composition of the hybrid United Nations-African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission designed for Sudan’s Darfur region.

Members of the council began studying the 31-page document Wednesday as it was simultaneously sent to the AU Peace and Security Council. It is for the second phase of an eventual Sudan buildup to 23,000 personnel, dubbed the “heavy support package” of 3,000 military police and equipment with deployment expected early next year.

The report has come on the eve of International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo calling on the UN panel to seek the arrest of two alleged Darfur war criminals as responsible for much of the violence in Darfur over the last four years.

More than 200,000 people have died and more than 2 million have been displaced since fighting broke out in early 2003.

In a letter accompanying the secretary-general’s composition report to the 15-member council, Ban wrote that the AU had requested some additional clarifications and revisions to an earlier agreement, his spokeswoman, Marie Okabe, told reporters.

Last November 16, Khartoum, the United Nations, and the AU agreed to the creation of a hybrid force in Darfur as the third phase of a three-step process to replace the existing but under-resourced AU Mission in the Sudan, which has been unable to end the fighting.

The original accord, which had been endorsed by the Security Council, gave clear ultimate command to the United Nations. But the AU raised objections and asked for “clarifications” in the text.

Based on further consultations with AU Commission chairman Alpha Oumar Konare, the changes were reflected in the new text, she said.

The new language eliminates the specifics and leaves vague how power will be divided, going back to the November language.

“We remain in control,” said a senior UN official knowledgeable about peacekeeping operations. “We are going to maintain overall control.”

But he said that UN operational authority would be delegated to the regional organization with the world organization maintaining overall authority, or Africans making decisions on the ground and UN officers stepping in to override if necessary.

The official said that since the United Nations is authorizing the 23,000 person mission to replace the 7,000 member AU mission and is financing the international operation, it is only natural to want control.

Action by Sudan on the second phase is expected next week, following months of backsliding on agreements to allow UN peacekeepers into the East Africa nation.

A Security Council delegation is heading to Africa June 14 and is expected to stop in Khartoum three days later.

In another development, the number of displaced helped by the United Nations to return to their homes in South Sudan has topped 100,000, according to the UN Mission in Sudan, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Since January, more than 55,000 refugees and almost 50,000 internally displaced persons have been transported to their places of origin.

The milestone represents a significant step toward implementing the January 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the decades-long north-south civil war, separate from the Darfur conflict.

Sudan poses challenges to aid workers, with most of the south of the country inaccessible during the June-December rainy season, and IOM has utilized air, river, rail, and road corridors to return Sudanese to their homes areas.

However, the United Nations reported that basic services such as the supply of clean water, healthcare, and education were not keeping pace with demand, in spite of assistance from the government and the international community.

The number of Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries has dropped significantly since 2004, falling from 515,000 to 270,000.

Repatriation operations from the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have ended. Large-scale returns continue from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, with fewer numbers repatriating from Libya and Egypt.