Jan Pronk

Statement on Darfur to the UN Security Council, November 2004

New York, November 4 2004

1. The report of the Secretary General of the United Nations on the situation in Sudan in October presents a hybrid picture. There is progress on the political front but regression on the ground. The progress is slow and the regression is alarming. Also the divergence between the two trends is getting wider. Political agreements reached at the negotiating table may come too late to stop rising violence and human suffering around the towns, villages and settlements in the field. I am afraid that the situation in Darfur may become unmanageable unless more efforts are made both at the negotiation table and on the ground.

2. The meeting of the Council, foreseen in Nairobi in mid-November, provides an excellent opportunity to get such robust efforts started. Is that necessary? Yes, it is. Since the first Security Council resolution on Darfur, three moths ago, there has undoubtedly been progress on the political front, but it is not yet paying off because in Darfur itself the situation has gravely deteriorated.

3. The report before us today identifies a number of trends in events during October. Both the Government and the rebel movements violated the cease fire, and it seems that the SLM/A was responsible for the greater number of these violations in October. The SLM/A are seeking to claim a wider area of Darfur as being under their control and are strengthening their logistical and fighting capacity. The Government is also trying to extend the territory under its control by attacking with mixed forces made up of military, police and militia. The United Nations is awaiting verification from the AUCFC on reports that aircraft flown in these attacks discharged their weapons against ground targets. However, the Government has denied this and stated that it has given instructions to the military not to do so. In the beginning of the reporting period, large scale attacks on civilians by militia did not take place. However, towards the end of the month, the threat of large scale attacks has increased considerably. Cases of banditry and abduction are rising, hampering the delivery of humanitarian aid. Two new rebel groups have arisen and another new threat – that of landmines – has emerged to threaten humanitarian operations and civilians in Darfur. You are aware of the tragic death of two humanitarian aid workers caused be a landmine, a criminal and cowardly act against people who had come to the aid of those in need. In general, agreements reached with the Government are kept; for instance, they agree on full and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance. However, they are back-sliding on their agreement that displaced persons will not be forced to return or to relocate. Recently, in South Darfur, families of displaced persons were forced, in the middle of the night, to leave the place where they had sought refuge. This should stop immediately and the forcibly uprooted displaced people should be helped to get back to their freely chosen place of refuge.

4. So overall, instability has increased in October with more insecurity and violence than in September. The situation has become very tense during the last couple of days, more tense than at any time since the adoption of the first Security Council Resolution on Darfur in July 2004. An armed group, said to be members of the SLM/A, looted a large number of camels from Arab tribes and kidnapped 18 civilians from a passenger bus in the area around Zalingei, West Darfur. This gave rise to an ultimatum set by the militia which threatened to attack not only SLA forces but also the civilian population and displaced persons.

5. As October turned into November the situation deteriorated and tension rose to a level unprecedented since early August. Fighting is breaking out in more and more places. Parties are provoking one another. Militias are ganging up. Governmental authorities are not able to exert a moderating influence or they respond with untimely and even counter-productive measures.

6. Darfur may easily enter a state of anarchy; a total collapse of law and order. The conflict is changing in character. The government does not control its own forces fully. It co-opted para-military forces and now it cannot count on their obedience. The spirit is out of the bottle and cannot be pushed back. The border lines between the military, the para-military and the police are being blurred. Within the rebel movements, there is a leadership crisis. There are splits. Some commanders provoke their adversaries by stealing, hijacking and killing, some seem to have begun acting for their own private gain. They now control so much territory that they either take responsibility for the needs of the people therein, and become political leaders, or they may turn to preying on the civilians in areas they control by force – and we may soon find Darfur is ruled by warlords.

7. If this negative trend is not reversed it is a recipe for disaster. If the fighting continues crops will fail. Then the whole population of Darfur will become dependent on humanitarian assistance. Many livelihoods are at stake. It started already two years ago, when some Arab tribes drove other tribes out in order to get more “Lebensraum” for themselves and their cattle. It was pure ethnic cleansing. Now they now are getting something similar in return: theft of cattle, blocking of the necessary camel tracks to dry areas resulting in illness of the animals and thus in a threat to their livelihoods. Rights of access to scarce common natural resources are being denied. These resources are even more scarce due to pressure from increased human and animal populations and also to a decrease in the quality of these resources as a result of climate change. The result of all this is a fight between economic lifestyles drawing on the same natural resources, leading to a survival of the fittest and death for the weakest.

8. Can all this be reversed? Only by a three pronged approach. First, deployment of a third party force - the AU - to effectively deter violations. Second, there must be a speeding up of all negotiation processes. Third, political leaders – the official ones as well as the self-selected ones – must be held accountable for ongoing violations of agreements and further human misery.

9. The deployment of the AU expanded force is already taking place. However, the present upsurge in violence and the trends which I indicated earlier require an even more speedy deployment of these forces in order to enable them to be everywhere where they are needed, that is in any area where the insecure situation may get out of control and explode. I would advise members of the Security Council to consider all possibilities for more financial and logistical support to the AU in order to ensure that its forces can be present wherever they are required to fulfill their tasks.

10. The second element of such a three pronged strategy is the speeding up of all negotiation processes. Political talks between the Government and the various movements are proceeding. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but it seems as if the tunnel gets longer and longer. Political solutions are important in themselves; they are also urgently needed in order to get a grip on the security situation on the ground.

11. Three months ago, there were not yet any talks between the Government and the rebel movements in Darfur. They now have started. They were paralyzed in the last round because parties were focused on the wrong issues. There is still reluctance at the negotiation table in Abuja, distrust, internal division, lack of capacity to negotiate and no sense of urgency. The Government and the rebel movements must comply with Security Council resolution and with the N’djamena ceasefire agreement, rather than make their compliance mutually conditional. They should implement fully and immediately the agreement reached on humanitarian access, whether that agreement has been signed or not. They should put their political objectives in the center of their deliberations rather than focusing on issues such as humanitarian access and security that are essentially non-negotiable. The Security Council meeting in Nairobi could bring parties to realize that the international community expects the parties to negotiate in good faith and adopt before the end of the year a Declaration of Principles, as well as a time frame and a detailed agenda for further negotiations on political issues.

12. In Nairobi, the Government and the SPLM have met again in October, and some new agreements are close at hand. I have, in previous reports, listed reasons why the outcome of the North-South peace process - i.e. peace, a new constitution, a federal structure for the state, national differentiation, and a broad-based Government - can serve as a model for Darfur. It now seems that this round of talks has a good chance of being completed. However, a very tough final bone of contention – the financing of the Southern army – still has to be resolved. Parties seem reluctant to move. Members of the Council could offer their good offices to help resolve the last issue, so that Vice President Taha and Dr. Garang could meet each other half way, whereby neither of the two would lose.

13. The international community should ensure that the momentum is sustained, and that it gives the right message to the parties with a single, strong voice. There is now, more than ever, an urgent need for firm pressure on all parties to finalise the agreements and move into the implementation phase. As we have seen in past cases, the final stage can be the most difficult, with new challenges emerging up until the last moment. This final stage has to be completed ultimately around the end of this calendar year. Negotiators owe this not only to the people affected by the North-South conflict, but also to the population elsewhere in Sudan, particularly in Darfur. Therefore, negotiators at the North-South talks should commit themselves to working together to resolve the Darfur conflict immediately after the signature of the comprehensive agreement, for instance by strengthening and underpinning the political process already under way in Abuja.

14. So, the Council may wish to make clear that it will not tolerate any further delay to the finalization of a comprehensive North-South peace agreement and to a political resolution of the Darfur Crisis. The Council’s message to the parties should essentially be as follows: ‘Fulfill your commitments and you will have our support. If you do not, or if you do not do so in time, you lose it.’

15. The third prong of this political strategy is to ensure political leaders – the official ones as well as the self-selected ones – are held accountable for ongoing violations of agreements and further human misery. The Security Council has adopted a number of resolutions on Sudan this year, primarily because of increasing concern regarding the fate of the civilian population. Political leaders, on any side, who deny the facts on the ground, neglect the sorrow of poor and vulnerable people living in areas under their control and use delaying tactics in negotiations and implementation procedures, are acting irresponsibly. The message to the SLM/A, the JEM and all other armed groups is that their rebel status does not exonerate them from a moral obligation towards their people. On the contrary, as political leaders, they are responsible for civilian protection as much as the Government of Sudan. The Security Council may wish to consider creative and prompt action to ensure effective implementation of the terms it set in earlier resolutions regarding protection of civilians, and to warn all parties that they will all, without exception, be held accountable for such violations. The meeting of the Security Council foreseen in Nairobi, in mid-November, provides a major opportunity in this respect.

16. Action is required. The humanitarian catastrophe of 2003 and the first six months of 2004 was allowed to happen because the international community had not yet decided to act. That has changed with the adoption of the two Security Council resolutions on Darfur. If the sorrow continues, it is despite these resolutions. If, for instance, displaced persons protest and the police and military shoot innocent civilians despite the UN’s presence, a drama would develop for which the UN would be blamed. If militias and para-military attack unarmed civilians, a massacre would result despite the fact that the protection of civilians was the essential objective of the Security Council. That would be a catastrophe. Protection of people: that is the obligation of the Government of Sudan and of movements which consider themselves would-be governments and which are bound by the same principles of humanitarian law as formally recognized governments. It is also the duty of the international community to consider further action if action taken so far has proved to be insufficient.