UNITED NATIONS, Oct 5 (AFP) — An expanded African force must be urgently deployed in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a report discussed by the UN Security Council.
Annan also said peace talks between the Khartoum government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army in the south of the country were needed to help ease tensions in Darfur.
In the report sent late Monday to UN Security Council members, Annan determined that the Darfur crisis had changed little at the end of September from the time of his prior report a month earlier.
At that time the UN chief said the Sudanese government “had not fully met its obligations… the implementation of the ceasefire, the stopping of attacks on the civilian population, the disarmament of the militia and the prosecution of the perpetrators of the atrocities.”
“In these areas no further progress was made during the month of September,” Annan wrote, underscoring: “I urge the government to fulfill all of its obligations and commitments.”
“The most important step to be taken in the coming weeks is beginning the deployment of the expanded African union force. That force needs to be sizeable. It needs to be speedily deployed.
“It also needs to be a force with a mandate that goes well beyond overseeing the N’Djamena ceasefire,” Annan said.
The United States has called Darfur “genocide” and Stuart Holliday, a US diplomat at the United Nations, said “It’s absolutely vital that the African Union force gets the support it needs to actually deploy.”
Among duties that could be handled by the force, Annan mentioned the protection of refugees and and their homes, refugee camps; monitoring of police activities; disarming combattants including the notorious Janjaweed militia.
“Crucially their presence would constitute a buffer between the civilian population and possible attackers,” Annan wrote.
“The second important issue to be addressed in the month ahead concerns the political talks between the government and the SPLA,” he said.
Though Darfur is in the west of Sudan, Annan said the resumption of the North-South talks would contribute to a settlement for Darfur.
“The outcome of the North-South process, i.e. peace, a new constitution, a federal structure for the state and a broad based government, can serve as a model for Darfur,” Annan said.
“The North-South process is a two-edged sword: success goes far beyond the North and South; failure will endanger Sudan as a whole and also the region. All parties should invest all their political energy in reaching a final result in these talks,” the UN chief urged.
At least 50,000 people have been killed in Darfur and 1.4 million people have fled their homes since two rebel movements rose up against the Khartoum government in February, 2003.
Khartoum’s response was to arm and support the Janjaweed, an Arab militia which has been accused of committing massive human rights abuses against Darfur’s black African people.
About 200,000 people have crossed the border into neighbouring Chad and in its capital, Ndjamena, a member of a joint ceasefire commission has said both sides in Darfur have committed “repeated violations” of a seven-month-old truce.
“The commission deplores the repeated violations of the ceasefire and calls on the parties to respect their commitment,” el-Ghassim Wane, the co-president of the joint body said after it met late Monday.