November 23, 2009 / 7:25 PM / 10 years ago

Sudan violates peacekeeper deployment agreement-UN

* Sudanese army limits movement of peacekeepers in Darfur

* Khartoum, rebels aren’t fully committed to peace - U.N.

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Sudan’s government has harassed and limited movements of international peacekeepers in its conflict-torn western Darfur region, violating an agreement on the peacekeepers’ deployment, the United Nations said in a report released on Monday.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force (UNAMID) attempting to quell the Darfur conflict presents another bleak assessment of what U.N. officials say is one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

"The repeated incidents of government officials preventing access to UNAMID patrols are a direct violation of the Status of Forces Agreement with the government of the Sudan and a serious impediment to the mission’s capacity to implement its mandate," Ban said in the report.

The report documents a number of examples of harassment — bureacratic delays, warning shots fired at UNAMID, weapons pointed at convoys and Sudanese army helicopters flying low over UNAMID "in a threatening manner."

Sudanese U.N. diplomats were not available for comment.

UNAMID has been struggling for nearly two years to stabilize the situation and protect civilians in Darfur, which is roughly the size of France, but Ban said Khartoum is making it difficult for UNAMID to carry out its day-to-day duties.

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when mostly non-Arab rebels revolted after accusing Khartoum of neglecting Darfur. A counter-insurgency campaign drove more than 2 million people from their homes. The United Nations says as many as 300,000 people died, but Khartoum rejects that figure.

Nearly two years after UNAMID began deploying, the report said there are nearly 20,000 UNAMID troops and police in Darfur, well short of its mandated full strength of 26,000.

PEACE MEDIATION EFFORTS UNSUCCESSFUL

In addition to limitations on peacekeepers’ movements, Ban said other problems plague the population of Darfur, where the United Nations estimates that some 4.7 million people are dependent on aid to survive.

He said Sudanese government forces and armed rebel groups continue to clash in Darfur, making it clear that neither Khartoum nor the rebels is committed to a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Making matters worse, the report said, the militaries of Sudan and neighboring Chad have been fighting along the two countries’ border.

Ban’s report said that U.N./AU mediator Djibril Bassole was consulting with rebel groups and the Sudanese government but added that "efforts to resume peace negotiations between the parties were not successful."

It will not be easy to ensure that nationwide elections scheduled for April 2010 are free and fair or that people in Darfur are able to participate in a meaningful way, Ban said.

The report said that registration of political parties was a "particularly difficult issue." The only party to campaign in Darfur so far has been the National Congress Party of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who was hit with an international arrest warrant in March for suspected war crimes in Darfur.

After the International Criminal Court indicted Bashir, Khartoum expelled 13 foreign aid organizations, which has made it extremely difficult for the United Nations and other agencies to provide humanitarian aid in Darfur.

In remote areas of Darfur, the presence of aid workers has fallen by 50 percent, Ban said, a problem that has been exacerbated by a wave of kidnappings of aid workers, which has prompted some aid groups to pull staff out of the region. (Editing by Vicki Allen) ((louis.charbonneau@thomsonreuters.com; +1 212 355 6053; Reuters Messaging: louis.charbonneau.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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