Press Releases

    25 July 2005

    Sudan Situation Fragile, but 2005 Could Become Year of “Decisive Change”, Special Representative Jan Pronk Tells Security Council

    UN Mission Head Describes “Snowball Effect” of Peace Agreement, Adds Battle against Poverty Will Require Decades of Sustained Effort

    NEW YORK, 23 July (UN Headquarters) -- Jan Pronk, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Sudan and Head of the United Nations Mission there, told the Security Council this morning that “further confidence-building is necessary, but there is light at the end of the tunnel”, and 2005 could become the year of decisive change.

    Briefing the Council, he said, “All in all, there is room for improvement, but we must be realistic.”  The situation was utterly fragile.  The wounds afflicted on millions of people during a lengthy period of neglect, exclusion, injustice and bad governance could not be healed overnight.  Democratization and guaranteeing human rights would require more than an agreement between leaders and fighters.  Poverty was very deep and the battle against poverty following the fight for peace would require decades of sustained efforts by the Sudanese and the international community.  Ongoing reconciliation, as well as management of conflicts between nomads and farmers, would require political attention and resources for compensation and development.

    He said about a year ago, the Council had decided to task a United Nations mission to prepare for the monitoring foreseen in the Naivasha Agreement and to support the implementation of a peace agreement, once signed between the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army.  One month later, the Council adopted its first resolution concerning Darfur, in order to put an end to the mass killings and crimes against humanity since early 2003.  Since then, the Council had intensified its involvement and had given a comprehensive mandate to the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS).

    One year later, things had changed, he said.  It had started with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the north and south in Nairobi on 9 January.  A new Constitution had been approved.  In July, John Garang [Chairman of the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Movement] had come to Khartoum.  One day later, the Government of National Unity had been constituted, with a new Presidency -- Omar el-Bashir, John Garang and Al Osaman Taha.  The statements they made were future-oriented, focused on peace, democracy and citizenship. Their body language was a clear expression of joy and confidence, implying “peace is here to stay”.

    Of course, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was not really comprehensive, Mr. Pronk continued.  Quite a few parties had been excluded from the talks, but the agreement was meant to be the beginning of a comprehensive peace to be won throughout Sudan.  Many things were happening.  In Cairo, Egypt, an agreement had been reached between the Government and a number of opposition parties that had jointed forces in the National Democratic Alliance.  The state of emergency had been lifted, with the exception of Darfur and the east.  Censorship had been lifted as well.

    He said the fifth round of Abuja talks had made progress. The parties had negotiated seriously and flexibly, discussing political issues rather than procedures. The leadership of the African Union (AU) was solid and effective.  It had led to the signing of the Declaration of Principles, which would be the basis for future talks. Talks could be finalized before the end of the year.  Talks to address the conflict in the east had yet to start, but contacts with both the Government and the Eastern Front indicated that there was a willingness to address the conflict through negotiations. 

    The CPA had had a snowball effect, he said.  In Cairo, Abuja and in the east texts had been drafted that reflected the spirit of peace, diversity, democratization and power-sharing.  That meant, however, that the Government and all other parties, as well as the international community, should do their utmost to implement the CPA in full, not allowing “powers in the dark” or “grumbling spoilers” to harm the letter and the spirit of the agreement.  They could do so, by establishing without delay, the mechanisms agreed to in the CPA.  The Ceasefire Joint Military Committee had already been established.  However, the Ceasefire Political Committee and the Assessment and Evaluation Commission still had to be set up.  The proper and smooth functioning of those institutions was crucial.

    Mr. Pronk said peace would be challenged on the ground by the presence of the Lord Resistance Army, by other armed groups and by tribes that resisted what had been agreed.  The findings of the Abyei Boundary Commission constituted a first, major challenge.  While its arbitration was definitive and binding, it created winners and losers.  He called on all to respect the arbitration and to enter into a peaceful dialogue on how the implement the decisions.  All parties should be aware that it was the first test-case for the sustainability of the CPA.

    UNMIS also faced tremendous tasks ahead, Mr. Pronk continued.  While the Mission was steadily deploying its peace monitoring capacity, it was meeting a number of difficulties.  Some troop-contributing countries had delayed their contribution, necessitating others, who depended on them, to do likewise.  The total lack of infrastructure in south Sudan, together with heavy rains, created difficult problems.  He believed, however, that full deployment was possible towards the end of October.  In the meantime, the Mission was doing its utmost with its good offices, to help steer the process towards prudent conflict management.  The highest priority had been given to facilitating the voluntary returns of displaced persons and refugees in the upcoming dry season.  In that period, more than 600,000 of them were expected to return.  Way stations would be established and provide a minimum package of assistance. 

    He said many more resources were needed.  The Mission’s revised workplan for 2005 amounted to nearly $2 billion.  Only 40 per cent of that figure had been committed so far.  In that regard, he called on all donors to adhere to their pledges and increase them.  The humanitarian situation in south Sudan was very fragile and not addressing that wholeheartedly would betray the expectations of millions and would jeopardize the chance to make peace sustainable until at least six years from now, when people had to choose, by referendum, either for unity or separation.

    Creating a perspective for millions of people on the ground who had suffered for decades was a joint responsibility of Sudan’ political leaders and of the international community, he said.  Could a similar perspective for the people in Darfur be created?  It seemed that the ceasefire was being kept by the parties.  The African Union force had helped to establish more stability.  Militia attacks on villages had decreased and the humanitarian situation in the camps had improved.  The monthly number of death due to violence was still much too high, between 100 and 300, but substantially lower than in the period before the adoption of the first Council resolution on Darfur, in July last year.  According to a preliminary World Health Organization study, the crude mortality rate was now 0.8 per 10,000 people per day in the whole of Darfur, as against over 1.5 deaths more than a year ago.  The halving of that rate had brought it below the emergency threshold.

    The situation, however, was still delicate, he said.  Banditry had become ferocious and attacks could flare up.  Militia had not been disarmed and arbitrary arrests and inhuman treatment of prisoners still took place.  Rape also continued.  While a new Government policy to help the victims of rape and to investigate the crimes of rape had been adopted, its implementation was still deficient throughout Darfur.  The Government had commenced a process of reconciliation between tribes.  It could not, however, be a substitute for a political agreement or official legal action.  The Government had finally established a court to deal with crimes against humanity, but only a few cases had been brought to court.  Here, too, a call on the Government was in place to not only arrest foot solders who killed and raped, but also their commanders and leaders.  Only then could impunity be stopped, and only then would the present reconciliation efforts result not merely in clearing a dark past, but also in opening a new era in which crimes could not be repeated. 

    The international community had started to address the Sudanese problem with a comprehensive strategy a year ago, he said.  That strategy consisted of humanitarian, political and military chapters.  Some successes had become manifest.  While a change in the strategy was not required, intensification of the strategy, persistence and commitment to add an economic chapter was crucial.  It would also be necessary to look forward to what had to be done after the possible signing of the Darfur peace agreement.  People would have to return to their areas of origin.  They would only do so when they felt secure.  That required a further expansion of the African Union force.  Planning of such an expansion should soon commence.

    On the day of the Government of National Unity’s inauguration, beautiful words had been spoken, he said.  President Bashir had spoken of a new era, sketching its contours with language that had inspired many people.  The President had declared his commitment to the people of Darfur to settle all grievances and hostilities that had befallen any citizen from whatever party on the basis of justice and the rule of law.  That was more than a promise, it was an assurance, which everybody had heard, and would assess whether that commitment would be turned into reality.  

    He said the second new Vice-President Ali Osaman Taha, who had made place for John Garang as the first Vice-President, had referred in his speech to the overwhelming welcome by the people of Khartoum to the homecoming of Garang.  He had said that the people of Sudan who had taken to the streets to call for more such processions had been the strongest signal, culminating in a historic gathering that had brought forth no word, but was the strongest speech in the celebrations. The leaders had to keep silent and proceed to discharge their duties and accomplish their mission. That was quite a commitment.  When listening to the speech, many in the audience would have thought:  the people of Darfur had spoken too.  They had been heard in Khartoum, Addis, Abuja, Nairobi and in New York. 

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