Unamid head highlights outcome of AU, UN, Sudan meeting

The UN-AU Joint Special Representative for Darfur, Martin Uhomoibhi, says the 22nd meeting for the Tripartite Coordination Mechanism held in New York two weeks ago, lauded “the improved cooperation between the Government and Unamid”.

The UN-AU Joint Special Representative for Darfur, Martin Uhomoibhi, says the 22nd meeting for the Tripartite Coordination Mechanism held in New York two weeks ago, lauded “the improved cooperation between the Government and Unamid”.

Speaking to a press conference in Khartoum on Monday, Uhomoibhi said that the AU, UN and Sudanese Government delegations welcomed the improved cooperation between the Government and Unamid. “All participants recognised the importance of the Tripartite Coordination Mechanism to address challenges to the effective implementation of the Mission’s mandate, and appreciated efforts made in this regard.

“The discussions were held in a cordial collaborative atmosphere. They focused on operational matters affecting the successful implementation of Unamid’s mandate and noted the positive steps taken to expedite visa issuance/renewal and release of goods from customs.

“The forum also discussed progress on the formulation of Unamid’s Exit Strategy, in line with benchmarks set out in UNSC the AU Peace and Security Council resolutions. The AU, UN and Government of Sudan delegations agreed on the need for a clear plan with concrete deliverables, which would be developed during the month of April for discussion at the next Strategic Tripartite meeting to be held in Khartoum towards the end of May.

“Furthermore, I personally applauded the resumption of the monthly technical level bilateral meeting between the Government of Sudan and Unamid which started in January 2016 and has since provided a good avenue for gradual positive changes over visas, customs clearances, access restrictions among other operational matters.

“In addition to this, I commended the Government of Sudan for the release of $1 million which constitutes 50 per cent of its pledge towards the Darfur Internal Dialogue and Consultations process.

“I would like to register a sincere note of appreciation for the warm welcome I received from the Government of Sudan since my arrival to the country as JSR for Unamid. I am hopeful that the genuinely cordial reception I received from both the Foreign Minister and the Director of NISS continues to be the hallmark of my tenure as Unamid JSR/JCM. This cordiality culminated in the personal privilege of meeting President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir , whose welcome of me and support to Unamid is most invaluable at this critical junction of implementing our mandate. I take this opportunity to reiterate our solemn commitment to peace and stability in Darfur and our willingness to work with the Government of Sudan and all involved stakeholders in good faith to achieve this common goal.

“Since mid-January 2016, renewed fighting between the Government of Sudan Forces and Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid has led to reportedly tens of thousands of civilians being displaced from in and around the Jebel Marra area into North, Central and South Darfur. Unfortunately most of those displaced are children and women as is the case wherever there is an armed conflict on our planet.

“From the outset of the crisis, thousands of civilians turned to Unamid to seek refuge and protection, with a majority choosing to settle in close proximity to the Unamid team sites at Sortoni and Tawilla in North Darfur. Approximately 70 thousand civilians.

“In response, and in locations where it was able to do so, Unamid mobilised an immediate protection response across military, police and civilian components and in support of the facilitation of the delivery of emergency assistance by humanitarians. Military and police readjusted deployment in concerned areas, reinforcing both personnel and equipment as well as increasing stationary and mobile patrols.

“The Unamid Sortoni Team Site has been providing the IDPs in its vicinity with protection through presence and 24 hour patrolling inside and around the IDP Gathering Site. Support to humanitarian partners is ongoing priority being given to armed escorts for humanitarian convoys. Provision of water is ongoing by humanitarian actors, with the support of Unamid, and basic medical assistance continues to be extended to IDPs by three temporary clinics run by international NGOs.

“Unamid is working in close collaboration with UN Country Team to support water and hygiene issues. Sensitization and risk awareness sessions on the dangers of Unexploded Ordnances (UXOs), especially to displaced children. A Protection Network Committee, comprised of representatives of the displaced, including women, has been established to create a continuous dialogue between Unamid and the IDPs on their challenges and needs, and to ensure that Unamid receives timely alerts for any situation that requires the immediate involvement of its peacekeepers.

“Despite the significant efforts made to date, the protection and humanitarian situation continues to remain critical.

“At this point, I would like to emphasise the wider human rights impact of such displacements on civilians and communities in affected areas as such incidents continue to have a negative impact on  daily livelihood activities such as farming, firewood and water collection. I would also like to reiterate here that vulnerable groups such as women and children continue to bear the brunt of conflict.

“On its part, Unamid remains committed to continuing its engagement with Government of Sudan authorities on the need to improve rights and access to justice in Darfur. Additionally, the Mission will, in collaboration with the UN Country Team and donor partners, continue to provide technical support to the transitional justice mechanisms as well as work closely with the National Commission for Human Rights, as well as all parties to the conflict in an integrated approach towards confronting impunity and tackling violations and abuses that contravene international humanitarian law.

“Overall, across Darfur, Unamid troops and police are becoming more proactive and adopting a more robust posture in protecting civilians. Sadly, on 9 March 2016, we lost a peacekeeper who was killed when an unidentified armed group attacked a humanitarian convoy escorted by Unamid near Kutum, North Darfur. Our deepest condolences go out to the peacekeeper’s family and loved ones, as well as to the Government of South Africa.

“Another important aspect of the Mission’s mandate that I would like to speak about is the support extended by Unamid to mediation and reconciliation activities aimed at preventing and mitigating inter-communal conflicts across Darfur. To this end, Unamid has been facilitating many state and federal government led reconciliation processes like between the Ma’alia and the Rezeigat, the Berti and the Zayadiyah as well as between the Fallata and the Salamat, to urge the parties to the conflicts towards durable peace.

“Unamid will also support the outcomes of these reconciliation processes by working with the local authorities and Native Administration in the dissemination implementation of any agreement reached by the parties.

“As we look forward to the renewal of the Mission’s mandate, so that a more efficient and agile Unamid is able to better serve and support the people of Darfur in their pursuit of peace, stability and prosperity, I would like to impress upon the Government of Sudan authorities to allow Unamid freedom of movement and access for humanitarian actors to reach vulnerable populations in need of assistance, particularly in those areas of Central and South Darfur that have not yet been visited. I also urge both parties to the Jebel Marra conflict to agree to a cessation of hostilities.

“On this note, let me join the UN Secretary General’s welcome of the AUHIP’s signing of the “Roadmap Agreement” aiming to bring together the Government Sudan and other opposition forces; including the Justice and Equality Movement and Sudan Liberation Movement/Minni Minawi, to reach an agreement on a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access and assistance and an inclusive national dialogue process. I also state my commitment to do everything within my capacity to support the joining of other Darfuri movements so that peace is achieved in the region. I would also like to commend the Government of Sudan on signing the Action Plan to Protect Children from Violations in Armed Conflict. Children are the future of any nation and Sudan’s commitment to its children is an indicator of its commitment to the cause of sustainable peace and development.

“We hope that these efforts converge with the DDPD efforts, whose next Implementation and Follow up Committee is to be held in Khartoum next month. We shall be looking forward to meeting you there at on that day where we hold a joint press conference at the conclusion of the IFC consultations.”