Darfur shocks and humbles UN chief

Ban confident of securing peace talks with rebel groups before UN deployment.

Thousands of cheering refugees welcomed Ban to the al-Salaam camp on Wednesday [Reuters]
Thousands of cheering refugees welcomed Ban to the al-Salaam camp on Wednesday [Reuters]
“I was shocked at the poverty and hardship all these tens of thousands of people were undergoing.
“I really wanted to give them even a small sign of hope as secretary-general.”

Al Jazeera exclusive

Mohammed Adow reports on the delivery of aid to Darfur

The scene at the camp was in stark contrast to his visit earlier in the day to the UN compounded in al-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, when he was disrupted by an uninvited group of about a dozen people who shouted slogans in Arabic.

“We don’t care for UN! This is our country!” the group of mostly women shouted in what appeared to be an orchestrated event. “You want to destroy us. We will not allow you here in Darfur.”
The clamour raised security concerns, forcing Ban to change part of his schedule on Wednesday, but did not stop him from promising to step up efforts to end the protracted conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people and left more than 2.5 million displaced.
“I really urge the international community to help them return to their homes and land, give them a sense of security and bring peace as soon as possible. We must bring enduring peace, durable peace and security here,” he said.
Ban said he would discuss what he saw at the camp during talks on Thursday with Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, and other officials in Khartoum.
The UN and the African Union (AU) are pressing to deploy a 26,000-strong joint peacekeeping force in Darfur and restart peace negotiations between the government and splintered rebel groups.

Ban is pushing for a joint UN-AU
peacekeeping force for Darfur [AFP]

Mohammed Adow, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Sudan, said Ban’s visit comes amid fighting between rival Arab tribes and reports of division among anti-government groups in Darfur.

But Ban says he is confident he can secure peace talks with rebel factions before the peacekeeping mission begins.
The UN Security Council in July unanimously approved the peacekeeping mission, which, if fully deployed, would be the world’s largest operation of its kind, to help end four years of violence in the vast western Sudan desert region.
Sudan has in the past resisted the push for UN peacekeepers to replace the overwhelmed AU force in Darfur.
Ban said earlier in his Sudan trip that al-Bashir has accepted the deployment of the joint UN-AU force, but many are wary of al-Bashir’s past record.
AU officials say the groundwork for deploying the joint force is on schedule for it to be deployed early next year.
Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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