Bleak outlook for Sudan without Darfur peace: UN

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There is a risk of increased instability in Sudan due to a lack of a peace deal for Darfur and a looming referendum on whether South Sudan should secede from the North, the UN chief said in a report released.

In a bleak assessment of the situation facing the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan’s conflict-torn western Darfur region, known as UNAMID, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report said that violence rose in Darfur after nationwide elections in April.
“Violence flared between government forces and JEM (the rebel Justice and Equality Movement) troops in flagrant violation of their commitment to cease hostilities signed in February, and causing May to be the deadliest month since UNAMID’s establishment in 2007,” he said.

The 15-nation Security Council is scheduled to discuss Ban’s assessment on Tuesday. Council diplomats say the panel plans to pass a resolution later this week to extend the mandate of UNAMID for another year, as Ban recommends.

Ban said he was concerned that JEM’s withdrawal from peace talks in Doha could prevent a swift resolution of the Darfur conflict. This, he warned, could have nationwide implications.
“Without an inclusive and comprehensive peace agreement in Darfur, as South Sudan heads towards a referendum on its future status, there is a risk of increasing stability in Sudan,” Ban said, adding that he was urging JEM and Khartoum to return to the negotiating table immediately.

U.N. officials estimate that as many as 300,000 people have died in Darfur since rebels took up arms in 2003, accusing Khartoum of neglecting the arid region. Khartoum puts the death toll at around 10,000.

DIRE HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

The secretary-general also accused both Khartoum and rebel groups in Darfur of restricting UNAMID’s access to areas where there has been fighting.
“In May alone, UNAMID movement was restricted on 10 occasions, eight by the government of Sudan, reportedly for security reasons,” the report said.

Sudan’s outgoing UN Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem said that there had been “no restrictions whatsoever” placed on UNAMID by Khartoum.
“Indeed, the international civil servants writing such reports reduce the value and credibility of the UN,” he told Reuters.

Over the past year between July 2009 and July 2010, UNAMID peacekeepers were attacked on 28 occasions, resulting in 10 dead and 26 injured, the report said. There has also been the problem of kidnapping and banditry.

The humanitarian situation also remains dire, with some two million people — a quarter of Darfur’s population — displaced and reliant on aid agencies for survival. The U.N. World Food Program has difficulty reaching all the people in need of aid in Darfur.



It was unable to reach some 250,000 people in May due to insecurity.
“The scarcity of water in Darfur is growing, with reports of a significant number of wells drying up,” Ban said, adding that the quality of water delivery across Darfur had been hurt by Khartoum’s expulsion of specialized agencies last year.