Sudan: unravelling of peace pact could bring humanitarian catastrophe

Should the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan collapse, a humanitarian catastrophe could ensue, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday, calling on the international community to remain focused on ensuring its implementation.
In his latest report to the Security Council on Sudan, Mr. Ban wrote that the expulsion of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the country and the closure of three national groups, following the issuance of an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for war crimes, could result in a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.
The United Nations will work with the Sudanese Government to bridge gaps, “but available capacity for immediate alternatives are limited given the sheer size of what has been the world`s largest humanitarian programme,” he said.
This echoes a report on the deployment of the hybrid UN-African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in the war-torn Darfur region, made public yesterday, in which he characterized the NGOs` ejection as an “extremely negative” development, the UN News Service warns. 
The Secretary-General called on the Government to reconsider its decision, stressing that “anti-NGO rhetoric threatens not only the security of [the expelled organizations] and the humanitarian community that remains in the Sudan, but also the continued delivery of vitally-needed humanitarian services and human rights activities.”
The vacuum left by the ejection of the aid agencies has left large areas of the Three Areas of Abyei and eastern Sudan with little humanitarian, recovery or reintegration support, the report pointed out, warning that this could hurt peace efforts.
The key benchmarks of the CPA – which ended the conflict in which at least 2 million people were killed and some 4.5 million more driven from their homes – include census results, border demarcation, and referendum preparations.
In his report, Ban said that he is encouraged by strides made in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme and also by the parties` cooperation on the issue.
The initiative could spur confidence and progress towards putting the CPA into place, he said, urging donors to continue funding the scheme.
The Secretary-General welcomed the announcement of an electoral timeline, pledging the UN`s assistance in helping the National Elections Commission to organize and hold free, fair and peaceful polls, a key element of the CPA.
He also repeated the world body`s commitment to help the parties hold referendums in 2011 in Southern Sudan and the disputed town of Abyei, which lies in an oil-rich area close to the boundary between the country`s north and south.
“This goal must remain a priority for the parties regardless of other developments, and I restate my call on them to put in place the necessary legal and institutional frameworks for the vote and post-referendum stability,” Ban said.
The Secretary-General recommended that the Council extend the mandate of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) for a further 12 months, until 30 April 2010.