Press Releases

    6 October 2004

    Sudan Conflict Could Widen into Regional, Even Global, Confrontation, if Not Properly Addressed, Security Council Told

    Special Representative Jan Pronk Describes Political Gains, but Says No Progress Made in Key Areas of Security, Ending Impunity

    NEW YORK, 5 October (UN Headquarters) -- The man-made conflict in the Sudan, if not properly addressed, could create the conditions for a widening regional, if not global, confrontation, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative warned in a briefing to the Security Council today, in which he concluded that there had been no systematic improvement of human security in Darfur and no progress on ending impunity.

    Once the struggles in the Sudan were perceived as a clash between cultures -- Arabs against Africans -- they became unmanageable and spread to other places, Jan Pronk said. Unfortunately, in the key areas of security and impunity, there had been no progress, but there had been signs of improvement on the political front. Security Council resolution 1564 had laid the basis for further progress, by deciding on an expanded African Union force and by paving the way for a resumption of talks, which had, so far, been only partially successful.

    Agreements concerning humanitarian access could not be signed, and on security, the parties fell back on earlier positions, he said. The main issues -- the political objectives and future economic development -- had not yet been dealt with. “This is deplorable.” The talks should not only concentrate on humanitarian and security concerns, but they should focus on the political and economic roots of the conflict -- political neglect and economic marginalization. There would not be any improvement in Darfur without agreement guaranteeing political inclusion and sustainable development for all.

    Recalling the Sudanese Government’s announcement in mid-September that it would accept a greater African Union presence with more troops and a broader mandate, he stressed the importance of beginning deployment of the extended force in the coming weeks. The force should be sizeable and speedily deployed, with a mandate far beyond overseeing the N’djamena ceasefire agreement.  Other tasks were ensuring the safety of displaced persons in the camps, monitoring the actions of the police, guaranteeing refugees’ safe return, and overseeing disarmament. The force must also act as a buffer between civilians and possible attackers.

    (The ceasefire is between the Sudanese Government and two local rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which have been fighting since early last year.)

    He wondered, however, whether the African Union could meet the challenges. Whatever the answer, it was clear that those tasks had to be fulfilled. Many would be largely in the domain of the police, rather than the military. That was the responsibility, even the duty, of the Government, but it could not do that alone. Too much had happened and too many crimes committed for which official authorities bore responsibility, and too much confidence had been lost. For all those reasons, a third party was needed, and presently, that was the African Union.

    Mr. Pronk laid out three conditions aimed at a sustainable solution of the Sudanese conflicts:  the Government should protect the people and guarantee their rights as citizens and human beings; the country’s constitutional and institutional framework should reflect existing diversities; and an economic development policy should be based on a fair distribution of the country’s resources and directed at poverty reduction and sustainable development. To meet those terms, he offered an international strategy that was comprehensive, unified and well-focused and aimed at relieving the suffering of the staggering number of victims.

    Today’s briefing followed a number of closed talks in the Council last week on the Sudan’s unfolding tragedy, including with the Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, at his request. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, and the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Juan Méndez reported the findings of their week-long mission to the troubled region of Darfur, where more than 1.65 million people have fled their homes and armed militias have been accused of killing thousands more.

    Nigeria’s President, Olusegun Obasanjo, in his capacity as Chairman of the African Union, which had deployed troops to Darfur to monitor the April ceasefire agreement between the Government and the opposing movements, had called on the Council on 24 September to ensure that the Union had the capacity to overcome the current challenges, including by maintaining a force level of some 3,000 troops.

    Secretary-General Kofi Annan attended this morning’s meeting, which began at 10:11 a.m. and adjourned at 10:36 a.m.


    For the Security Council’s consideration this morning of the situation in the Sudan, it had before it the progress report of the Secretary-General pursuant to Security Council resolution 1547 (2004) (document S/2004/763). In it, he states that the parties, having come so far together in their quest for peace, are “standing on the threshold of an agreement”. The peace process now requires an “irreversible momentum”, a defining agreement that will signal a break with the past, a change of course in Sudanese history, he says. The report also reviews the dire humanitarian situation and the activities of the special political mission in place in the country for three months now.  Among other tasks, it is conducting logistical planning for the possible establishment of a peace support operation, if a comprehensive peace agreement is concluded.

    The report finds that several factors have contributed to the relatively speedy initial deployment of the advance mission. First, early Council authority to initiate preparatory work, which enabled the Secretariat to carry out a preliminary technical mission and to deploy a small advance team of experts, which aided mission assessment and engagement with the Sudanese Government and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) interlocutors well before the adoption of the mandate.  Second, the strategic deployment stocks based in Brindisi, Italy, although severely depleted as a result of several simultaneous operational demands, have been an invaluable tool for generating quick capability in the Sudan, especially in the areas of communications and information technology.

    At present, the report notes, the advance mission is at 70 per cent of its authorized strength, including national and international staff and the military component, and is operating effectively. The third factor in assisting rapid deployment has been the timely agreement by the Government on the status of the mission and its personnel. The Secretary-General is looking forward to an expeditious exchange of letters with the SPLM/A on the terms of the agreement, which would assist the advance mission in moving forward with its plans to deploy in the south. The mission’s focus has expanded considerably since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1556 (2004). The extent of the mission’s operations in Khartoum, southern and eastern Sudan, Darfur, Addis Ababa and Nairobi will be considerable. As he stated previously, a future peace support mission will face enormous challenges.  The logistical challenges alone are considerable, and there are expected to be numerous challenges throughout the implementation period.

    Regarding the humanitarian situation, the report finds that it remains dire and United Nations operations remain perilously underfunded. The international community must respond to this shortfall and do its utmost to mitigate the appalling circumstances in which so many Sudanese find themselves.  The Secretary-General urges the international community once again to address the funding gap without further delay.

    The decision of the Government and the SPLM/A to resume negotiations in the context of the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD)-led peace process restores much of the optimism that has been dissipating in recent months, says the Secretary-General. While it is unfortunate that months have gone by without progress in these talks, he is heartened by the parties’ recent positive attitude towards concluding the negotiations as soon as possible. On the verge of an agreement, the parties must work together now to agree to mutually acceptable implementation modalities for the pre-interim and interim periods that would follow a comprehensive peace agreement.

    The IGAD-led peace process is central to comprehensive peace in the Sudan, the report states. No other peace process has come so far or has addressed the fundamental roots of the conflict in southern Sudan. While the process does not offer a comprehensive solution to the country’s problems, the breadth of the agreements reached in the protocols offer a basis for answers to the wider issues of insecurity and conflict. The current crisis in Darfur is emblematic of that problem. The rebel groups in Darfur are only two of an array of peoples and groups that have complained of systematic marginalization over the course of recent Sudanese history. There will be a need to include the peoples of all areas of the Sudan if the search for peace is to be sustainable.

    The Secretary-General says that a comprehensive peace agreement resulting from the IGAD-led peace process would herald that new era and would, he believes, signal to other marginalized peoples and groups in the Sudan that there is an alternative to violence, that negotiation can succeed and that peace is attainable through political compromise. The meeting between Vice-President Taha and SPLM/A Chairman Garang, which is to begin on 7 October, will provide a catalyst to addressing the Darfur crisis and the wider problems of economic and political marginalization that adversely affect so many in the Sudan. The parties must not allow this process to stall further or derail, as it represents the best chance to achieve a peaceful solution to a long and deadly conflict that has ravaged the country and claimed so many innocent lives. The Secretary-General urges the parties to seize the opportunity that is before them and use it to ensure that a comprehensive and lasting peace can take hold throughout the Sudan.

    Council members also had before them a photocopy of the report of the Secretary-General on the Sudan pursuant to paragraph 15 of Security Council resolution 1564, and paragraphs 6, 13 and 16 of resolution 1556. The report will be issued as document S/2004/787.

    Detailed Summary of Briefing

    JAN PRONK, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan, noted that the Council had before it two reports on the basis of two different Council resolutions. He considered his statement today as a summary, not a substitute for the reports.

    In his last presentation to the Council, he had said that there had been some progress in a number of areas, noting each of them separately in order to pin the Government down on the implementation of what had been promised or agreed. However, he had also said that, in some key areas, the Government had not met its commitments. It had not stopped attacks by militias against civilians, nor started to disarm the militias. Moreover, no concrete steps had been taken to bring perpetrators of the attacks to justice, allowing violations of human rights to continue in a climate of impunity.

    One month later, the achievements of August had not been reversed, he said. In those areas the Government has kept its promises. That was not good enough, however. There had been no systematic improvement of people’s security and no progress on ending impunity. In September, there were still breaches of the ceasefire from both sides -- attacks and counter-attacks, revenge and retaliation. There were attacks by the army, sometimes involving helicopter gunships, though less frequently towards the end of the month.  SLA attacks took place with greater frequency throughout the period, but were more directed against the police than against the army.  Ceasefire breaches resulted not only in losses of life of armed personnel, but also in civilian casualties. Most civilian causalities, however, were caused by militia attacks, some of which were quite atrocious in the beginning of September. Towards the end of the month, militia attacks had become less frequent. In the same period, however, armed banditry rose at an alarming rate, endangering both the local population and aid convoys.

    Despite the fact that both the Government of Sudan and the rebel movements had reiterated their commitment to the ceasefire, breaches had continued, he said. In the past month, they had been engaged in talks to keep such violations under control. Some clashes had resulted from a deficient implementation of the agreements concerning the initial safe areas. A procedure had been worked out to avoid that in the future. The Government, however, had refused to agree to follow the procedure, as long as the rebels failed to identify their troop positions. While pragmatic agreements on the ground might help, ultimately a truly respected ceasefire could only come from the African Union-sponsored Abuja talks.

    A second key area was that of impunity, he continued. The Government had still failed to bring the perpetrators of atrocities to justice. While some had been arrested, the leaders were still walking free.  He fully agreed with last week’s reports presented by the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. Without a drastic reversal of the climate of impunity, there was no hope for peace.

    The establishment of the Commission of Inquiry represented a major advance in that respect, he said.  In the 17 September meeting of the Joint Implementation Mechanism, the Government of the Sudan had said that it welcomed the Commission. The Government had expressed its confidence in the Secretary-General, trusting that the Commission’s composition and mandate would ensure its independence. The Commission’s work was important, as many violations of human rights and international law had been committed. While they had been widely documented, many reports were ad hoc and unverified.  For that reason, it was important that the Commission complete a thorough investigation.

    In the key areas, therefore, there had been no progress, he said.  However, there were signs of improvement on the political front. Security Council resolution 1564 (2004) did lay the basis for further progress, both in terms of security and at the negotiating table. It did so by deciding on an expanded African Union force and by paving the way for a resumption of the political negotiations.

    In the mid-September meeting of the Joint Implementation Mechanism, Sudan’s Government had announced that it would accept a greater African Union presence and welcome more troops and more tasks, he said. That had now been confirmed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs before the Council. It was very important that steps were taken to begin the deployment of the extended African Union force in the coming weeks. The force needed to be sizeable and speedily deployed. It also needed a mandate far beyond overseeing the N’djamena ceasefire agreement. Many tasks needed to be fulfilled that were not directly related to insecurity resulting from Government/SLA clashes, including ensuring the safety of displaced persons in the camps, monitoring the actions of the police, guaranteeing the safe return of refugees, and overseeing the disarming of fighters.  The force must also act as a buffer between the civilian population and possible attackers.

    Could all that be done by the African Union? he asked. Whatever the answer, it was clear that the tasks had to be fulfilled.  Many of the tasks would be more police than military tasks. While that was the Government’s responsibility, it could not do it alone. Too much had happened and too many crimes committed for which official authorities bore responsibility. For that reason, a third party was needed, and, currently, that was the African Union.

    He said the second most important issue to be solved concerned the political talks between the Government and the SPLM/A. The outcome of the North-South peace process could serve as a basis for Darfur. The North-South process was a two-edged sword: success would go far beyond North-South; failure would endanger the Sudan as a whole and also the region. All parties should invest their political energy in reaching a final result of the talks. The international community should ensure that the momentum was sustained. The political momentum was there. On 7 October, Vice-President Taha would meet Chairman Garang in Nairobi.  It was important that they confirm that no earlier agreements would be opened up.  The Council might wish to send a delegation to make clear that the international community would not easily accept any further delay.

    The talks on Darfur in Abuja had been only partially successful, he continued, noting that an agreement concerning humanitarian access could not be signed.  Regarding security, the parties had fallen back on earlier positions, resulting in a stalemate. It was deplorable that the main issues, namely, the political objectives and future economic development, had not been dealt with. The talks should not only concentrate on humanitarian issues and security questions, but should focus on the political and economic roots of the conflict. There would be no improvement in Darfur without an agreement guaranteeing political inclusion and sustainable development for all.

    Three conditions should be met in order to reach a comprehensive and sustainable solution of the Sudanese conflicts, he said.  First, political leaders, including the Government, should protect the people, guarantee their rights and provide them with the chances for a decent life.  Care for the weak and the poor seemed to be a scarce commodity in Khartoum.  Second, the country’s constitutional and institutional framework should reflect the existing diversities within the nation and provide for a fair degree of regional autonomy.  Third, an economic development policy was needed based on a fair distribution of the country’s resources, with poverty reduction and sustainable development as the foremost objective.

    The international community could help meet those conditions by following a comprehensive, unified and well focused strategy, he said.  It could follow a tripartite approach, namely, providing adequate humanitarian assistance, ensuring security protection and addressing the root causes of the conflict.  It could also create the conditions for a swift transition from relief and protection towards rehabilitation, capacity-building and development.  Partner countries, donors, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations had to work towards the next phase as soon as possible.  It was also necessary to increase financial assistance. There had already been more than 4 million Sudanese refugees and displaced persons before the breakout of the Darfur conflict, the victims of a forgotten war.  Now there were an additional 1.4 million in and around Darfur. In  that part of the country, the number of conflict-affected people was some 2 million, and the figure could rise to some 3 to 4 million if the civil war continued.

    Continuing, he noted the need for a comprehensive political solution, which used the breadth of the agreements reached in the North-South protocols as a basis for solution of the conflicts elsewhere in the Sudan.  The people of all areas of the Sudan would have to be included in a national process, including rebel movements, opposition groups, religious leaders and civil society.  The solution of the conflicts in the Sudan must be made an African project, he added.  The international community must help the African Union to realize that project, by providing it with all the necessary resources, including financial, logistical and, if requested, personnel.

    “We are confronted with the worst humanitarian crisis of today”, he said.  It was a man-made conflict that, if not properly addressed, could create the conditions for a widening regional or even global confrontation. Political leaders must be pressured to change their policies towards the objectives.  One of the experiences of the last three moths was that external political pressure helped.  Pressure on the regime must be combined with adequate monitoring and a fair degree of trust and acknowledgement of good performance. At the same time, however, it was important to make clear that a government that kept its promises, negotiated seriously and lived up to agreements could be a respected partner in the international community.  It was important to aim not at regime change, but at regime character change.

    Finally, he stressed the need to prevent the conflicts in the Sudan from turning into a general antagonism between people with different religions or different ethnic backgrounds. Once the struggles in the Sudan were perceived as a clash between cultures -- Arabs against Africans, Sudan versus the West, Islam versus the rest -- they became unmanageable and spread to other places.

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