Conflict continues in South Darfur

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Weapons fire, aerial bombing and armed patrols continued yesterday near a major camp of the African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
UNAMID`s personnel said that in addition to ongoing fire that could be heard, Sudanese government forces were allegedly observed conducting patrols around the town, approximately 500 metres from the UNAMID camp in the town of Muhajeria.
The UN News Centre adds an unidentified aircraft also flew over Muhajeria and dropped three bombs approximately one kilometre from the camp.
Internally displaced persons (IDPs) have converged on the camp after fleeing the fighting in the area, which broke out on 15 January between Government forces and the Sudanese Liberation Army/Mini Minawi faction (SLA/MM) against the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM).
Others have moved into northern areas of the Darfur region, where fighting erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen and causing an estimated 300,000 deaths, while forcing some 2.7 million people to flee their homes.
So far, the Al Salaam IDP camp in the north has received 520 new arrivals and the Zam Zam camp received 1,400 persons, with 90 per cent of the new IDPs being women and children, according to humanitarian sources.
UNAMID said it has provided some tents to assist the humanitarian community in North Darfur.
South Sudan
Meanwhile, a United Nations report says the overall security situation in Southern Sudan remains fragile and unpredictable four years after a peace accord ended two decades of civil war in the region. The area is scheduled to hold a referendum on secession from Sudan the year after next.
“With little over two years of the interim period remaining, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) has reached a critical juncture where any action or inaction on its provisions will have a profound impact on the future of the Sudan,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his report to the Security Council.
“While progress in its implementation needs to be recognized, daunting challenges still lie ahead,” he adds of the 2005 accord that ended the conflict, in which at least two million people were killed and some 4.5 million more driven from their homes.
Ban cites the overriding need for “a tangible peace dividend,” including the provision of basic public services, particularly for the people in the south and in the border areas, to convince them of the benefits of remaining united.
“The parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement are yet to present a convincing case for unity to the people of Southern Sudan. I call upon the parties to use the remaining two years to explore all options available to make unity attractive,” he writes, pledging UN support, including in the electoral process.
And he stresses that key benchmarks, such as census results, border demarcation, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and referendum preparations now need to be achieved “within a tight time frame with very little flexibility for further delays.”
The report deals principally with the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), set up to support the CPA, and refers only fleetingly to the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) charged with helping to end the separate deadly and ongoing conflict in the country`s western region. It stresses that lack of progress in Darfur does not create an environment conducive to implementing the CPA and complicates Sudan`s political and military dynamics.
Ban notes that insecurity continues to plague parts of the country where banditry, tribal clashes and militia activities remain a grave concern, while momentum in the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme needs to be maintained and the parties should commence discussions on the proportional downsizing of forces on both sides.
He cites the volatility in oil-rich Abyei in central Sudan, contested by north and south, where some 50,000 people fled violence last May, and voices concerns over a renewed flare-up there in December, calling on the parties to expedite the demarcation of the North-South border.
He also expresses concern over Sudanese reaction to a possible arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) against President Omar al-Bashir for allegedly committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Darfur.
“The International Criminal Court`s actions have a major impact on Sudanese political dynamics and have diverted much attention at a time when outstanding issues related to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement require the parties` cooperation and renewed commitment,” he writes.
“While I am encouraged by the assurances of continued support by the government, I am also concerned about remarks by some of its officials that the government may redefine its relationship with UNMIS should an arrest warrant be issued against President al-Bashir.”
On human rights he notes that arbitrary arrests by the National Security Intelligence Services continue to be a major concern in the north and restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, including daily press censorship, continued unabated.
Meanwhile, in Southern Sudan, people are detained for prolonged periods without having access to legal assistance, including those facing the death penalty.
As of the end of 2008 UNMIS had 10,025 uniformed personnel, including 8,726 troops, 620 military observers, and 679 police, supported by 774 international civilian personnel, 2,475 local civilian and 271 UN Volunteers.