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Sudan Tribune

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UN officials say Khartoum not doing enough as Darfur deadline looms

EL FASHER, Sudan, Aug 28 (AFP) — On the eve of a UN Security Council deadline for action in Darfur, UN officials made clear Saturday that Khartoum was still not doing enough to end the suffering caused by its bloody clampdown here.

Sara Abubakar Musa, left, and her sister Leila in the Abushouk camp, on the outskirts of El Fasher.
Sara Abubakar Musa, left, and her sister Leila in the Abushouk camp, on the outskirts of El Fasher.
After a three-day tour of the vast semi-desert region the size of France, a UN team welcomed improvements in relief distribution to the 1.5 million people who have been forced from their homes or seen their livelihoods destroyed.

But it added that persistent reports of abuses meant there was still “very little” readiness to return to their homes among the ethnic minority villagers displaced by the government’s onslaught against the rebels.

Huge makeshift tent cities of tens of thousands of people have sprung up across the region to accommodate the displaced, and the United Nations’ deputy coordinator for humanitarian affairs, Erick Deumuhl, said the facilities there were “improving” with better health services and “more food coming”.

But Deumuhl declined to describe the advances as “significant.” He said the security situation around the camps was “still problematic,” with many reports of “attacks and abuses when people venture outside.”

“The government has made efforts to bring in more security forces,” the UN official told reporters in the North Darfur state capital of El Fasher.

“Work has to be done to make the police change from a control force to a protection force.”

Deumuhl said this would require “additional training and a change in attitude” on the part of the police and other security forces. “That is going to take time, I am afraid.”

He said the government had announced new structures to address the huge number of allegations of human rights abuses by the security forces and their militia allies, but noted that they had yet to be brought into operation.

“There is hardly any follow-up on cases that are brought to the attention of the authorities,” he said. “So that is an area that needs a lot of attention.”

Deumuhl rejected government claims that large numbers of displaced people now felt secure enough to return to their homes. “I think there is probably some, but it is still very little,” he said.

His comments appeared to do little to change the assessment of a UN report already delivered to the warring parties in Darfur or that of UN envoy Jan Pronck.

“In Khartoum, we hear a lot of fine words, but the situation in Darfur has not changed much,” Pronk told Khartoum dailies Thursday. “The UN doesn’t want promises, but their fulfilment.”

Despite the comments of Pronk and other UN officials, Sudanese ministers continued to insist that they were on track to meet their obligations.

Khartoum had met its “commitment to the plan of action fully,” said Humanitarian Affairs Minister Ibrahim Hamid Soliman, who toured Darfur with Deumuhl as part of the Joint Implementation Mechanism set up to assess his government’s compliance.

He said the authorities had established committees made up of women to investigate allegations of rape by the security forces and militias and that police were “accepting claims” and investigating them.

Over the past week, even the more hawkish Security Council members have made clear that there is unlikely to be any rush to action against Khartoum when the Darfur crisis comes up for debate on Monday.

“The issue is not whether everything has been resolved by the 30-day period set by the Security Council, but whether the government of Sudan are on track to do that,” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said during to a visit to Darfur on Tuesday.

He denied that that constituted a climbdown by the international community after the talk of military intervention of recent months. “No one is going soft on anything,” he insisted. “This is a very imperfect situation.”

Sudanese officials, who have already explicitly rejected the UN deadline, have continued to voice defiance, even if diplomats say privately they express more concern.

“We will continue to implement our programme for restoring security in Darfur whatever the outcome of the Security Council meeting,” Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said in comments published by the Khartoum press on Saturday.