UN chief in Sudan says Darfur peace deal on brink of collapse

Monday, July 3, 2006

CAIRO, Egypt-- The head of the United Nations mission in Sudan said on his personal blog that the Darfur peace agreement "does not resonate with the people" and is in danger of collapse.

But Jan Pronk also wrote last week that the pact was still salvageable if revisions were made, calling it "a good text, an honest compromise." And he urged its quick implementation, saying, "it meets more and more resistance" as time passes.

The deal aimed at ending three years of bloodshed in the western Sudan region was signed May 5 by the Sudanese government and the main rebel group in Darfur, the Sudan Liberation Movement, though a dissident SLM leader and another rebel group refused to sign.

It calls for a complete cease-fire between rebels and government forces -- including a pro-government militia of Arab nomads known as the janjaweed that is blamed for most of the atrocities against ethnic African villagers.

"So far, nothing has been done. None of the deadlines agreed in the text of the agreement has been met," Pronk wrote on his blog Wednesday.

"It is no wonder that the people in Darfur get the idea that the DPA is just another text without substance, like earlier cease fire agreements, and is not meant to be kept," he said. "It is not yet too late to start implementation, but we seem to be running out of time."

Pronk said that without the peace agreement's implementation, the humanitarian situation in Darfur was worsening.

"The demilitarized zones, the buffer zones and the humanitarian routes have not yet been demarcated. As a result of this the humanitarian assistance to people in areas to which we did not have full access during the war cannot be resumed," he said.

Nearly 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur and more than 2 million displaced since members of ethnic African tribes rose in revolt against the Arab-led Khartoum government in early 2003.

Sudan's government is accused of responding by unleashing the janjaweed.

The head of the SLM, Minni Minnawi, threatened last month to pull out of the agreement if the international community did not support him quickly. He also warned that the peace deal could "collapse soon" if U.N. peacekeepers did not reach Darfur.

Leaders at the African Summit in Gambia, which ends Tuesday, were expected to press Sudan to accept U.N. peacekeepers. So far Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has blocked the idea, saying it would be the same as allowing foreign forces to occupy his country.

"Bringing U.N. forces to Darfur is totally rejected by all Sudanese people," al-Bashir told a rally in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on Thursday.

Pronk cited the arrival of U.N. peacekeepers as one of three steps to save Darfur, along with implementing the peace agreement and broadening support for it.

"Without an effective UN peace force the security of the displaced people and other victims of the war cannot be guaranteed. The AU peace force has done a good job but it is too weak," he said.

The African Union currently has 7,000 peacekeepers in Darfur, but has said it cannot handle the mission long-term and wants its force replaced by U.N. peacekeepers.

On the Net:

Pronk's blog: http://www.janpronk.nl/

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