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SUDAN: Ongoing insecurity jeopardises Darfur peace talks - AU

9/8/2005 9:14pm

KHARTOUM, 8 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - Continuous attacks by rebel groups on humanitarian workers, Arab nomads and villages in the strife-torn western Sudanese region of Darfur could jeopardise the success of the Abuja peace talks, warned Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, head of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS).

"These type of occurrences are happening all the time and all over," Kingibe told IRIN on Tuesday, expressing his worry about the widespread nature and frequency of recent attacks.

"The situation in West Darfur is of particular concern following a series of attacks on INGO [international NGOs] convoys. Overall, there have been at least 10 serious attacks on humanitarian workers in the past 30 days, including two attacks by armed men that took place on 1 September," Radhia Achouri, spokeswoman for the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), told reporters on Wednesday.

In one incident, a seven-vehicle INGO convoy was travelling to Geneina via Masteri with 21 personnel on board. Bandits stole personal belongings, ripped out all VHF communication equipment and then beat the staff members with sticks and rifles while they were lying on the ground.

On 25 August, a rebel group entered Turba, some 50 km north of the South Darfur capital Nyala, and abducted children belonging to the Arab nomads living in the area. According to AMIS, the rebels also stole over 2,000 camels and killed three civilians and three government solders.

"I am worried that the effect on the peace talks will be negative because in the past such incidents were used as cues for not starting the talks," Kingibe cautioned.

Acting state minister for foreign affairs, Najib al-Khayr Abd-al-Wahhab, on Wednesday called on the AU and the UN to move beyond condemning the attacks and compel the rebels to abide strictly by the decisions of both international organisations, the Sudanese news agency, SUNA, reported.

The minister warned that the failure of the AU and the UN to take action would bring the conditions in Darfur "back to square one."

Achouri said that Manuel da Silva, the deputy special representative of the Secretary-General and humanitarian coordinator, met with officials from the government, NGOs and the African Union in Geneina on Monday to discuss ways to curtail the security violations that were seriously hindering humanitarian operations in West Darfur.

"An agreement was made with the AU to increase security along the main routes, and efforts are expected from government authorities to improve the operating environment for humanitarian work in the area," she added.

The Darfur peace talks are scheduled to resume on 15 September in Nigeria's capital, Abuja, but the main rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), recently asked for postponement due to "internal reasons".

Observers on the ground in Darfur warned in August that the SLM/A chain of command was disintegrating and that "warlordism" in the region was increasing.

"In order for the peace talks to be successful, the parties of the rebel movements and the government need to come to the talks committed and determined to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Darfur," Kingibe noted.

According to Kingibe, the Darfur conflict "can only be resolved through compromise in the interest of the millions who are displaced and the thousands of refugees and the millions of Darfurians in general whose lives have been turned upside down for the last two years."

The conflict in Darfur pits Sudanese government troops and allied militias like the Janjawid - accused of terrorising the region's non-Arab tribes - against two main rebel groups, the Sudanese Liberation Army/Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, who claim to be fighting against the marginalisation of their region by Khartoum.


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