Press Releases

    27 September 2004

    Briefing Security Council on African Situation, Nigerian President Stresses Need for Support for African Union Presence in Sudan

    UN Secretary-General Emphasizes that Union’s Expanded, Protective Mission there Requires Substantial International Resources

    NEW YORK, 24 September (UN Headquarters) -- Stressing that the “command and control” role being played by the African Union in the Darfur region of the Sudan had strained all of its resources, Nigeria’s President and Chairman of the African Union, Olusegun Obasanjo, called on the Security Council to ensure that the Union had the capacity to overcome the current challenges, including by maintaining a force level of approximately 3,000 troops.

    The reported carnage in the Darfur region of western Sudan has aroused world attention and prompted a number of Security Council actions, including the adoption of resolution 1556 last Saturday, by which the Council had made clear its determination to keep the pressure on the parties -- the Government and the rebel groups -- to restore peace to the region. It also requested the Secretary-General to quickly appoint an inquiry commission to determine whether or not genocide had occurred.

    Taking a leading role, the African Union deployed troops to Darfur to monitor an April ceasefire agreement between the Sudanese Government and the opposing movements -- the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The first substantial peace talks took place in Abuja, Nigeria, under the Union’s auspices, from 23 August to 18 September, and were expected to resume next month. There, the parties had reached agreement on humanitarian issues, and some progress had been made on security issues, but the political and economic and social issues remained unresolved.

    Elaborating on the agreement on humanitarian concerns, Mr. Obasanjo said the arrangements had reaffirmed the commitment of the parties to take all necessary measures to prevent attacks, threats, intimidation and any other forms of violence against civilians, by any party or group including the Janjaweed and other militias. It also provided for the protection of property and livelihood and ensured respect for the voluntary return of displaced persons. He confirmed that the proposal regarding security was “still on the table”, for an agreed one-month recess of the talks, made at the request of the resistance movement.

    Opening today’s meeting, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the unspeakable violence in the Darfur region of the Sudan was not simply an African problem, but one which concerned the entire international community, adding that it imposed responsibilities “on all of us”. He, therefore, called on the entire international community to make unambiguously clear to both sides that it firmly expected them to return to the African Union-led negotiations for a political settlement in Darfur, and that they must bring to the table the spirit of compromise necessary to reach agreement.

    Mr. Annan said that the United Nations was supporting the African Union’s efforts to strengthen its operations in all parts of Darfur. Still, civilians were being attacked daily. He urged the international community to support the expansion of the Union’s mission and emphasized that the expanded protective African Union presence required substantial international resources -- logistics support, equipment and financing. “Every country that can help must help, and thereby give content and meaning to our words of concern”, he said.

    In the discussion that followed, Council members, including at the ministerial-level, expressed strong support for the Union’s role in Darfur, which, they said, was shouldering a heavy burden for itself and its newly developed conflict mechanisms. Speakers urged that international support should be given freely, if and when asked, and the Council should do everything possible to support the Union in its tasks. Time was of the essence, they stressed, with 10,000 people reportedly dying each month; the sooner the Union’s expanded presence was in place, the more lives would be saved.

    Grateful for the Council’s support, Mr. Obasanjo cautioned, however, that the permanent members should “really work together”. He said it had appeared that one country was supporting the rebels -- who called themselves resistance fighters -- while another was supporting the Government of the Sudan. That would not provide the necessary uniform backing for applying pressure to both sides -- the Government and the rebels. Once the political problem of the Sudan was solved, the country must be helped in raising its living standard and improving the lives of the Sudanese.

    Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain, Miguel Angel Moratinos Cuyaube, whose delegation holds the Council presidency for September, made opening remarks. Statements in the discussion were made by the Federal Vice-Chancellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, Joschka Fischer, and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, Alberto Gatmaitan Romulo.

    Other speakers included the representatives of United States, United Kingdom, China, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Algeria, France, Brazil, Angola, Benin, Chile and Romania.

    The meeting began at 10:22 a.m. and was adjourned at 12:20 p.m.


    The Security Council met this morning to hear a briefing on the situation in the Darfur region of the Sudan by Nigeria’s President, Olusegun Obasanjo. It had before it a letter dated 22 September from Mr. Obasanjo to the Council President transmitting the communiqué issued by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union at its sixteenth meeting, held on 17 September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, regarding the situation in Darfur and in Somalia (document S/2004/755).

    Opening Remarks

    MIGUEL ANGEL MORATINOS CUYAUBE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Spain, whose delegation holds the Council presidency for the month, said that the Council could not overlook the needs of more than 1 million refugees and displaced and thousand of victims, as well as the threat of the breakout of a regional conflict. He had visited the Sudan last week and he had been able to perceive the complexity of the situation in Darfur. There were no simplistic lessons or solutions. He had also had the impression that the humanitarian situation was beginning to improve, however slowly, especially in the refugee camps where international assistance was being effectively delivered. That was the first and most urgent step.

    He said that, despite the fact that the attacks had lessened, they had not stopped entirely, despite April’s ceasefire agreement. The Sudanese Government needed to disarm and control the Janjaweed militia and put an end to the attacks on civilians. It also must insist that rebel groups fulfilled their obligations under the ceasefire and cantonment arrangements. In that area, the work done by the African Union observer mission had been extremely commendable and would help in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis. The Group’s work had also demonstrated Africa’s resolve to manage and resolve its own conflicts.

    The Security Council had recognized that fundamental role and had supported the mission’s expansion and the international community was ready to provide logistical and financial support for the Union’s efforts. The Abuja peace talks, which were crucial to any lasting solution, had had their “ups and downs”. The rebel groups and the Government must understand that the international community expected them to negotiate in good faith and in a reasonable spirit leading to the conclusion of an agreement as soon as possible.

    Secretary-General’s Statement

    Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN said that the human tragedy in Darfur was one of the greatest challenges the international community faced today. The whole world was watching that tragedy unfold, “and it was watching us”. No one could be allowed to sidestep or ignore their responsibility to protect the innocent civilians who were in mortal peril. The urgent task was to do everything possible to protect the people of Darfur from further humanitarian suffering, terrible violence, and human rights abuses, and to bring their agony to an end.

    He said that the humanitarian emergency in Darfur was growing, and much, much more needed to be done to mitigate it. He reiterated his strong appeal to the international community to respond urgently and generously to the humanitarian appeal for Darfur. The African Union had assumed the great responsibility of leadership in both the security and political areas, and he warmly thanked it for doing so. He was very pleased that the Union’s Chairman, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, was here today to brief the Council. He also thanked Alpha Konare, Chairperson of the African Union Commission for his participation. The United Nations must give the Union its unwavering support in word and deed.

    The United Nations was supporting the Union’s efforts to strengthen its operations in all parts of Darfur, he said. Civilians were still being attacked every day. The international community must support the expansion of the Union’s mission to help protect them. A protective African Union presence could help make them safer, but that would require substantial international resources -- logistical support, equipment and financing. “Every country that can help must help, and thereby give content and meaning to our words of concern”, he said. The United Nations was also strongly supporting the Union’s leadership of the political process. The only route to true long-term safety for the civilians in Darfur, and the return of 1.6 million people to their homes, was a genuine political settlement.  The Union must be helped to achieve that goal.

    He called on the entire international community to make unambiguously clear to both sides that it firmly expected them to return the African Union-led negotiations for a political settlement in Darfur, and that they must bring to the table the spirit of compromise necessary to reaching agreement. The unspeakable violence that was still killing the long-suffering people of Darfur was not simply an African problem; it concerned the entire international community. “Whatever name we give it, it imposes responsibilities on all of us.  We all must rise to meet this challenge”, he stressed.


    OLUSEGUN OBASANJO, President of Nigeria and Chairman of the African Union, said that the situation in Darfur posed serious challenges to the African Union and the international community.  It was fitting, therefore, that it had recently engaged the attention of all those who desired peace and stability in the continent. Against that background, the African leaders, in July, had resolved to confront the problem, in all its ramifications. A major outcome of those deliberations in Addis Ababa was the constitution of the African Union Observer Protection Force in Darfur. Much earlier, and in the face of the unfolding grave humanitarian crisis in that region, the Union had initiated a peace process, which had culminated in the signing in April of the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement. That agreement provided for a ceasefire monitoring committee with a mandate to report to a joint commission consisting of the parties, the Chadian mediators and the international community.

    He said the Union had received the cooperation of the Sudanese Government, and had quickly mobilized and dispatched observers to the region, and the Union’s Peace and Security Council had coordinated yet another round of talks in July. The subsequent Addis Ababa agreement reinforced the earlier accord by enhancing security in Darfur and facilitating humanitarian assistance to the victims.  All along, the Union’s preoccupation had been the achievement of peace, security and development in Darfur and the Sudan as a whole. The Union’s leadership was convinced that linkages between peace, security and development should be maintained if the objectives of the international community were to be realized, specifically as envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals.  That was also consistent with the ideas of the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD).

    Referring to the peace talks in Abuja between the Government of the Sudan, the Sudan Liberation Army/Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, he said that the negotiation, as had been expected, had not been easy. After agreeing to a four-point agenda on humanitarian issues, security issues, political arrangements and economic and social arrangements, the parties moved to consider the first item. He had been able to persuade the parties to agree on the protocol that guaranteed unimpeded and unrestricted access for humanitarian workers and assistance to all internally displaced persons and refugees. Specifically, the agreement would allow the United Nations and non-governmental humanitarian assistance organizations to travel along routes proposed by the United Nations, without restrictions or escorts, in order to deliver assistance to areas under the control of any of the parties.

    He said that the protocol reaffirmed the commitment of the parties to take all necessary measures to prevent attacks, threats, intimidation and any other forms of violence against civilians, by any party or group including the Janjaweed and other militias. It also provided for the protection of property and livelihood and ensured respect for the voluntary return of the displaced. The parties, he said, also agreed that internally displaced persons would maintain their civilian character, and that all those reported to be have violated their rights would be investigated and held accountable. A proposal regarding security was still on the table, after a one-month recess was agreed to, upon the request of the resistance movement.

    He stressed the important collaborative role that the Security Council had played, and could continue to play, in enhancing the peace efforts of the African Union in Darfur. The peace and security of the Sudan would have a positive impact on the entire continent, so it was essential that all efforts be complementary. He expressed appreciation for the assistance already being provided to refugees.

    He said there was a need, however, to go beyond the provision of humanitarian assistance. The capacity of the African Union should be strengthened through provision of logistics, as well as training and deployment of personnel. Beyond that, there was the need to make sure the African Union had the capacity to carry out its current challenges, including the maintenance of a force level of about 3,000 troops. He urged donors to increase their assistance accordingly. In that light, he expressed appreciation for the relevant provisions of Council resolution 1564, and for the support of the Secretary-General for the establishment of the Union’s Peace and Security Council and for his personal interest and quick response to the situation in Darfur.

    Turning to other situations on the continent, he expressed satisfaction over the peace process in Liberia and the mandate extension for the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). The international community must stay the course there, he said. He similarly welcomed the extension of the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), and the Secretary-General’s recommendation for the expansion of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). He urged an early and favourable decision of the Council on that matter.

    In closing, he reiterated his call to the Council to continue its support of the African Union’s efforts towards peace, security and democratic governance on the continent, saying that African leaders had, with courage in the face of overwhelming odds, implemented policies toward those goals. Assistance in capacity-building and infrastructure development, towards social and economic development, was the surest way to help stop instability on the continent. He assured the Council that Africa would continue to cooperate with the Council in that pursuit.

    Council Members

    JOHN C. DANFORTH (United States) recalled that the Council had passed two resolutions on Darfur, including one last Saturday, the design of which had been to give as much support as possible to the work of the African Union. His questions concerned whether the Council and interested countries were doing everything possible. His sense was that time was of the essence; 10,000 people reportedly were dying each month. His sense was also that the sooner the Union’s troops were deployed in Darfur, the more lives would be saved. Was the Council doing everything possible to facilitate the troops’ rapid deployment and was there anything that it should be doing that it was not to further peace in Darfur?

    In response, Mr. OBASANJO, the Nigerian President said the Council was doing a lot. There was still life in Darfur, but “until we are able together to resolve the problem of Darfur, we can never say we have done enough”. He would say that a lot of what was needed was indeed being done, but the “P-5” Council members should really work together. It appeared that one country was supporting the rebels -- who called themselves resistance fighters -- and another was supporting the Government of the Sudan. That was not giving a uniform backing for putting pressure, uniformly, on both sides -- the Government and the rebels.

    EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom) said he hoped the Council’s commitment to supporting the African Union was obvious. He asked what the Council could do further to assist the Union achieve its objectives. He also asked how conflicts could be prevented before they began, through coordination with the African Union. The priority of the Council in Darfur was to stop the deaths, and he encouraged the Government of the Sudan and the African Union to identify their needs in getting monitors and troops on the ground for that purpose. He said there was also a very serious lack of policing and he asked how that gap could be filled.

    WANG GUANGYA (China) expressed hope that the humanitarian situation would soon improve. He supported the leading role being played by the African Union. The priority, he said, was achieving an expanded deployment for the Union on the ground. The core of the problem was to stop the fighting and provide humanitarian assistance. He supported the Union in its push for political solution and he called on the parties to show flexibility, and for the five permanent members to take a unified stand on the issue. He asked what the current view of the parties on expanded deployment was, and if there was a timetable being discussed for the negotiation process.

    MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said that the United Nations was an indispensable actor in Africa. Its commitment to the continent was strong and abiding, and the Security Council was deeply engaged both with individual conflicts and the cross-cutting issues affecting the continent. African institutions were increasingly involved in finding African solutions to African problems, and regional and subregional organizations were making a contribution. Conflict on the continent had sapped Africa’s potential for too long, but Africa now seemed to be turning a corner.  Conflict management, alone, however, could not lead to a comprehensive and durable peace.  He cited four priorities: conflict prevention; pacific settlement of disputes; addressing the root causes; and a focus on the inextricable link between peace and development.

    Regarding Liberia, he asked about the African Union’s views on lifting sanctions on Liberia in the areas of timber and diamonds. He said he had watched with deep anguish the events unfolding in Darfur, and he had been glad at the significant improvements in the situation and the fact that the Government was striving to meet its commitments. The international community must ensure that its actions did not encourage the rebels into intransigence. He had appreciated the Union’s leading role and had found its decisions on Darfur balanced and objective. Pakistan fully supported an enhanced presence of the Union’s monitoring mission in Darfur and hoped that an appropriate size and mandate would soon be agreed.

    JOSCHKA FISCHER, Federal Vice-Chancellor and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Germany, said he appreciated the Union’s willingness to take over the leading role in solving the Darfur crisis. Its working draft for plans to enhance its mission there was a very good basis for playing such a role. Indeed, the Union was shouldering a heavy burden for itself and its newly developed conflict mechanisms.  International support should be given freely, if and when asked. Germany and the European Union stood ready to support the Union’s mission, in close coordination with the United Nations.

    He said that Council resolution 1564 had been a clear signal that the Council was determined to keep up the pressure on the Government and rebel groups to return to the negotiating table and meet the demands contained in the two recent Council resolutions on the situation. His goal was to stop the killing and suffering of the people of Darfur. The European Union would examine appropriate measures, including sanctions against the Government and other parties in Darfur, if tangible progress was not achieved in that direction. He posed a number of questions to Mr. Obasanjo. How could the Council and other actors, such as the European Union, best complement the African Union’s efforts in the talks?  How did he envisage the disarmament of the Janjaweed in Darfur? What measures could be taken to ensure that special thought was given to the most vulnerable populations, including women and girls? Did he see a role for the League of Arab States?

    ALBERTO GATMAITAN ROMULO, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, said he fully supported the leading role of the African Union in Darfur. He was confident that peace would come about in the Sudan, if the international community gave consistent support, such as unyielding insistence that the parties abide by their agreements. He urged the support for the expanded deployment of the Union in the Sudan and welcomed the African Union’s efforts throughout Africa, noting those in Somalia in particular.

    ANDREY DENISOV (Russian Federation) said that peace in the Sudan could only come about through negotiated means, and that all the parties must comply with their obligations. He reiterated questions concerning how the African Union could be further supported in its efforts.

    ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) expressed appreciation for the work of the African Union and its Chairman, in the settlement of conflicts through negotiations. He fully supported the lead role of the African Union in the Sudan and the support given to it by the international community. He regretted the suspension of the peace talks and urged the parties to return to the negotiating table. A resolution of the conflict was essential for the entire region. The risks were great, but he expressed confidence that the international community would reinforce the progress already made, and would not disrupt it. The humanitarian crisis was a great challenge in itself, and the Council must be kept closely informed on the situation.

    JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE (France) said that the Security Council dealt daily with crises besetting the African continent. At the same time, Africans were those first involved in settling those crises. The new Africa was collectively and effectively shouldering its responsibility. The Council had every interest in working closely with regional organizations, particularly the African Union, wherever that help could strengthen the Council’s action. He was asking himself questions about how to enhance that cooperation, and he would appreciate the Nigerian President’s comments on ways of improving those relations.

    On the question of Darfur, he said that the clear message sent in resolution 1564 needed to be heeded and acted upon. The Sudanese Government must fulfil all of its obligations, particularly by providing safety and security for the population of Darfur, putting an end to the violence and impunity, and to impediments to the delivery of humanitarian assistance. In that crisis, the African Union was playing an irreplaceable role in enforcing the requirements of the international community and promoting the requisite cooperation from the Government. Deploying an international presence of unarmed observers there, together with the military personnel responsible for security, was not an easy undertaking.  France and the European Union were ready to assist the African Union in acting quickly.

    HENRIQUE VALLE (Brazil) said he had been advocating that the African Union should be granted the opportunity to provide the Council with its perspective on achieving stability and security in Africa.  Everyone agreed that regional organizations were increasingly relevant in the overall efforts towards peace and security, as they often were better able to detect security threats; they had better knowledge of the root causes; and they were more flexible.

    He said that, since the African Union’s creation three years ago, it had proved itself to be increasingly capable.  He thanked it for its cooperation with the Council in bringing troops and observers to Burundi, Somalia and the Sudan. In Côte d’Ivoire, the tripartite monitoring mechanism had brought together the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the United Nations. Those initiatives had translated into action the unequivocal determination of the Union’s leadership. Complementarity between the United Nations and regional organizations should be further developed and utilized.  Clearly, cooperation with the African Union was thriving.  Partnership was key to making viable African ownership.

    ISMAEL ABRAAO GASPAR MARTINS (Angola) said the Security Council and the African Union had no choice but to cooperate with each other, since 60 per cent of the Council’s work was related to Africa.  Lessons in ongoing cooperation should be drawn from experiences such as Burundi, which could fill out the United Nations Charter’s Chapter VIII principles on cooperation, and to act together in a timely and resolute manner in situations such as Darfur. Appropriate support to the Union must be provided to allow it to play its leadership role in such situations.

    JOEL ADECHI (Benin) said that the African Union could not continue to play its important role if the international community did not provide it with resources. In addition, when the post-conflict situation was not managed properly in Africa, conflict often resumed. It was, therefore, essential that serious post-conflict work be properly designed and coordinated between all stakeholders.

    CRISTIAN MAQUIEIRA (Chile) noted the successes that had occurred in many collaborations between the Council and the African Union, though in some situations, including Central Africa, such progress remained elusive.  In Darfur, Chile had insisted on resolute support for the role of the African Union.  He asked if there was a need for a Security Council mission to Darfur, and also if there was a need for a joint meeting of the Security Council with the Union’s Peace and Security Council.

    MIHNEA IOAN MOTOC (Romania) said that the latest Council resolution on Darfur had acknowledged regional ownership at work in that crisis. It had also encouraged and supported the Union’s further contributions, and it had adequately reflected the architecture of cooperation displayed in support of addressing the situation by the United Nations, in conjunction with the African Union, the European Union and many individual nations. He attached great value to regional ownership and solutions to crises that could affect entire regions. In that regard, he encouraged an updated reading and practice of Chapter VIII of the Charter, in accordance with the realities of the times.

    He said that success of the African Union monitoring mission in Darfur would be replicated elsewhere.  Partnership between the Union and the United Nations in facilitating a political settlement and solving the humanitarian crisis required the continued backing of the international community. A sustainable solution to the Sudan’s internal crisis could be found only through political negotiations.  He encouraged the Government and the rebels to start talks in good faith, in order to end the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and hoped they got the right message from the last two Council resolutions on the subject.  In future consideration of the Darfur question, the Council should strive more to speak with one voice, as its credibility and resolve was being put to the test in Darfur.

    Response of Nigerian President

    Replying to a question about what the Council could do in Africa, Mr. OBASANJO said that 60 per cent of its time was now devoted to African issues, so it was critical to ensure that that time was fruitfully used.  He also wondered whether it was possible to reduce the time devoted to African issues -- conflict, poverty, development, and employment. For too long, Africa had been living in an unequal world and had not recognized that soon enough. If that was the case, how would it be possible to correct the situation today? he asked. The causes of conflicts should be examined, namely lack of good governance and hopelessness. The latter referred to political, economic and social spheres.  Those problems should be examined by assessing where “we can put our finger” to help Africa do what it needed to do for itself.

    He said Africa had started that process. The African Union was an acknowledgement throughout the continent that earlier instruments were not enough. At about the same time, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) had been formed. Those two organizations could bring forward Africa’s reform to lead it away from present circumstances. At the Union, several measures were already 

    in place, which could use the Council’s support.  In one or two countries in Africa, if things were not improved, “we may have another Somalia on our hands”, he stated.  Completing negotiations in the south of the Sudan, which had been halted, would have a salutary effect on Darfur and in other areas of the country.  After more than 20 years, a comprehensive solution was being found for the south that would make the country united and, possibly, better governed.  Once the political problem of the Sudan was solved, that country must also be supported in raising its living standard.  The lives of the average Sudanese must be improved.

    The parties must be told when they were wrong, and when they failed to change, they must know they would be punished, he continued.  The African Union’s forces included a protection force, comprised of military and police.  Between 3,000 and 5,000 personnel would be required with support from aircraft, along with some observers and civilian personnel under the African Union.  The resources to back up those forces were the major issue, and the Government of the Sudan must take responsibility for the welfare of all its people.

    He stressed that the Darfur situation had presented the Union with a huge undertaking of command and control, in a magnitude it had never undertaken before.  For that reason, it was particularly important for the Union to have adequate tools.  It could then do the job smartly and expeditiously and thank the world for assisting it to achieve success.

    In answer to other questions, he said that there must be a cooperative structure of early warning and preventive measures to prevent further conflicts.  In addition, he could neither see a reason for or against a Council mission to Darfur.  As for a meeting between the Security Council and the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, it could be useful, but it must have a well-prepared agenda.  Regarding a timetable for the Darfur process, he said it was essential that the Union’s deployment should not be drawn out.  He looked for substantial progress within six months.  A decades-long process could not be tolerated; there were no resources for it.  Finally, he could not see any reasons for not lifting sanctions on Liberia.

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