UN peacekeeping official says there is hope for Darfur

February 12th, 2010 - 4:11 am ICT by BNO News  

UNITED NATIONS (BNO NEWS) – A senior United Nations peacekeeping official on Thursday said there are grounds for hope in the Darfur conflict.

Assistant-Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations Dmitry Titov said that although sporadic fighting persists in Sudan’s Darfur region, where the Government and rebels have waged a deadly seven-year war, and formal talks for a political solution have not yet been possible, recent positive developments give rise for some optimism.

“While the challenges in Darfur remain enormous, there is a hope and an opportunity that the coming year will bring positive changes for the region,” Titov, told the Security Council of a conflict that has killed an estimated 300,000 people and displaced 2.7 million others.

He cited recent high-level talks between the leaders of Sudan and Chad to increase security along their common border and Chad’s decision to expel Sudanese armed opposition groups as “a very positive step.”

Titov also noted that the joint African Union-UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which has faced significant difficulties in reaching its full complement of some 26,000 military and police personnel as well as helicopter and other logistical capability, has taken “significant steps” towards full deployment, with all but two of its 18 battalions on the ground by the end of the month an Ethiopian tactical helicopter unit due in mid-February.

In his latest report to the Council on UNAMID, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the mission was now focused on protecting civilians and facilitating humanitarian delivery. He voiced deep concern at the attacks on the peacekeepers, as well as threats of physical harm against UNAMID staff, shots fired in the air and the theft or confiscation of the mission’s equipment.

He cited 21 recent instances in which the peacekeepers’ movement was restricted and urged the Government to ensure that those responsible for killing peacekeepers be brought to justice.

With several major landmark events on the horizon, including national elections this year and a referendum in 2011 on possible independence for southern Sudan which was embroiled in a two-decade-long civil war until a peace agreement in 2005, Titov said it was important that Darfur’s challenges be viewed in a national context, taking into account power- and wealth-sharing.

He also stressed that restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly must be lifted in Darfur, as they already have been elsewhere in the vast country, Africa’s largest.

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