(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

UN envoy warns of increasing violence in Darfur

[Chad] Refugee children from Darfur wile away the hours under makeshift shelters in Bredjing refugee camp, eastern Chad. September 2004.
Claire Soares/IRIN

The situation in the western Sudanese Darfur region has deteriorated and could easily descend into a state of anarchy and total collapse of law and order, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative to Sudan, Jan Pronk, said.

Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustapha Osman Ismail, however, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa Programme that the situation in Darfur was generally not so bad, blaming insecurity in the region on the rebel groups who "increase their attacks ahead of Security Council meetings".

A UN statement quoted Pronk as telling the Council on Thursday, during his monthly briefing: "The government does not control its own forces fully. It co-opted paramilitary forces and now cannot count on their obedience."

He said there also appeared to be a crisis of leadership in the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement - the two groups fighting the government in Darfur.

"Some commanders provoke their adversaries by stealing, hijacking and killing - some seem to have begun acting for their own private gain," Pronk said. "The conflict is changing in character [and] we may soon find Darfur is ruled by warlords."

The situation in Darfur, he added, required the prompt and full deployment of an African Union (AU) international-peacekeeping force and the acceleration of peace negotiations. In addition, political leaders had to be held fully accountable for their actions.

Peace talks between Darfur rebel leaders and the Sudanese government were making limited progress, while the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army and Khartoum had not reached a final agreement yet to end a separate north-south conflict that began in 1983, Pronk told the Council.

He urged Council members to put firm pressure on all the parties to finalise the agreements and move into the implementation phase, noting that a Council meeting, scheduled for 18-19 November in Nairobi, Kenya, provided a major opportunity in that respect.

"Tensions have been rising since August and, as of November, fighting and provocation have become more widespread, threatening food production, and putting the whole populations at risk of becoming dependent on humanitarian aid," Pronk added.

After the Council briefing, Ambassador John Danforth of the United States, which holds the Council's rotating presidency for November, read a press statement in which the 15 members voiced their deep concern about the deterioration in the security and humanitarian situation as confirmed in Pronk's briefing.

They condemned ongoing attacks on civilians, sexual violence, hostage taking and other violations in Darfur "by all parties, including the government of the Sudan, rebel groups and the Janjawid militias," Ambassador Danforth said.

Concerned about the government's forced relocation of IDPs in Otash, Old Sharief and New Sharief camps on Tuesday, the Council called on Khartoum to cease all forcible relocations, return those removed and allow relief workers immediate access to all internally displaced person’s camps.

The war in Darfur pits Sudanese government troops and militias, allegedly allied to the government, against the rebels fighting to end what they have called marginalisation and discrimination of the region's inhabitants by the state. The conflict has displaced an estimated 1.45 million people and sent another 200,000 fleeing across the border into Chad.

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