The top United Nations peacekeeping official has stressed that ending the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region will require greater commitment and efforts by the parties involved, lamenting that the peace process has been moving very slowly.
Addressing the summit meeting of the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council yesterday, Alain Le Roy said that the joint AU-UN mediation effort faces “a number of seemingly intractable challenges, including and perhaps above all, the absence of a sustained commitment from the parties to discuss and then deliver progress on the issues of concern to the people of Darfur.
“The result is a process that has moved at a very slow pace and justifiable impatience on all sides,” he told the gathering in Abuja, Nigeria.
The efforts by the UN and AU to resolve the long-running conflict in Darfur between the Sudanese Government and the region’s armed movements have been led by the joint Chief Mediator, Djibril Bassolé, and his team, and sponsored by the Government of Qatar.
Fighting has raged across the western Sudanese region since 2003, pitting the rebel movements against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen. All sides stand accused of human rights abuses and an estimated 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur over the past six years and another 2.7 million people forced to leave their homes.
The efforts of mediators have been hampered by the fragmentation of the rebel movements into many different, smaller groups, making it harder for them to adopt a unified position during any negotiations.
In February, representatives of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) signed the Doha Goodwill Agreement with the Sudanese Government in an initial step designed to build momentum towards an enduring peace pact.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki and the AU High-Level Panel on Darfur have prepared a report articulating a vision that sees a peaceful Darfur taking its rightful place within a peaceful Sudan.
“We are confident that a number of proposals made by the report will give a boost to the efforts of the Joint Chief Mediator and his team, and their colleagues in the Qatari Government, as they continue the painstaking work of steering a peace process towards a tangible result,” stated Mr. Le Roy.
He added that, in Darfur, concessions are necessary from the rebel movements, as well as the two partners in the Government of National Unity.
“Let us work with them closely and encourage them to transcend conflict through serious confidence-building measures, and agreements that address the legitimate concerns of the people of Darfur,” said the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.
Mr. Le Roy pointed out that a political agreement for Darfur is also necessary in light of the national elections scheduled for April 2010.
“If the conditions are put in place, the elections will provide a chance for the displaced and disenfranchised people of Darfur to articulate their needs and concerns. We must work with the people and the Government of Sudan to ensure they seize this opportunity,” he said.
Following his stop in Abuja, Mr. Le Roy will also visit peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where he will assess security in the strife-torn east and discuss the extension of state authority and institution-building, and Burundi, where he will see first-hand how the UN integrated mission is working.