UNAMID : the challenging protection of civilians [fr]
Sudan (Darfur) - Statement by Mr Alexis Lamek, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations - Security Council - April 4th 2017.
I, too, would like to begin by congratulating you, Madam President, on your assumption of the presidency of the Security Council. You can count on the full support of the French delegation. I would also like to pay tribute to the excellent manner in which the United Kingdom presided over the Council during the month of March.
I also wish to join others at this very difficult time in condemning the terrorist attack that took place in Saint Petersburg yesterday. As my President did yesterday, I too express our solidarity with the Russian people.
I also wish to thank Joint Special Representative Kingsley Mamabolo for his briefing, as well as to congratulate him on his appointment to the helm of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). My delegation wishes him every success in his new post. He can count on our continued and determined support.
This July it will have been 10 years since the Security Council established African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, which took over from the African Union Mission in the Sudan with the task of helping to restore peace and stability in Darfur following the atrocities that took place in the region in the early 2000s.
The Council must regularly assess the results of the operations it deploys. It is in that spirit that I visited the Sudan last week. I thank the Sudanese authorities for their welcome, and UNAMID for its support. The meetings I conducted in Khartoum and El Fasher, as well as visits to two camps in Darfur for displaced persons, were very useful for me to better understand the complex reality of the region, which the Sudanese authorities, along with UNAMID, face today.
My visit to the Sortony camp in particular enabled me to better understand the challenges in protecting civilians in Darfur. There has clearly been a decrease in the level of violence in some areas of Darfur, as noted in the recent reports of the Secretary-General. The decline in the intensity of fighting between rebel groups and Government forces is obviously encouraging news, and we welcome the decision made by the Sudanese Government in January to extend the ceasefire by six months. We again call on the rebel groups to do the same.
What is striking is that the displaced persons who found refuge at Sortony, in the foothills of Jebel Marra, are now facing a different sort of threat. Following the aerial bombardments in January 2016, and in the face of attacks by armed groups and militias, people had to flee their villages, settling around a UNAMID camp in a valley. The vast majority of them tell us they want to return to their lands but cannot because they are harassed by members of the militias and armed groups, who continue to commit abuses against civilians who leave the camp. On far too many occasions, women fall victim to rape as they collect firewood. As some of the displaced persons said clearly, they would have died if they had not been able to find refuge near the UNAMID camp. I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the men and women of UNAMID who are implementing the mandate to protect civilians. Their work is decisive in a place like Sortony. The more than 20,000 displaced persons in Sortony represent only a small percentage of the 2.6 million displaced people in Darfur. With a population of 7 million, that means one out of three people in Darfur are displaced. What we are seeing and hearing in Sortony should lead us to reflect on what action the United Nations should take on the ground.
The challenge in terms of security and protecting civilians from the armed groups and militias is certainly one of the main challenges faced by the Government of the Sudan and UNAMID. The return of displaced persons to their villages will be possible only when their security is assured in those areas. The Government of the Sudan must fully play its role in that regard, in accordance with its primary responsibility for protecting civilians, as has been consistently reaffirmed by the Council and earlier this morning by the Joint Special Representative. The international community, through UNAMID, can be a partner in that effort. To do so, UNAMID must be able to operate under good conditions. It must be able to benefit from the sound cooperation of the Sudanese Government in the exercise of its mandate.
During my visit, it became clear that the stability of Darfur, and more broadly that of the region, requires addressing the root causes of instability. We have all spoken of this in our statements up until now, but I wish to recall that among the causes are the proliferation of weapons, the plight of displaced persons, the handling of the issue of land and natural resources, the need to strengthen the rule of law and, of course, combating impunity, whether at the local and national levels or at the international level through the International Criminal Court. The country team contributes to promoting development in Darfur, often under difficult conditions, but it is clear that it cannot be the only partner of the Sudanese authorities in responding to these complex challenges.
From my discussions with the Sudanese authorities, both in Khartoum and El Fasher, and with the displaced and UNAMID, disarmament emerged as one of the most important current challenges. There is in fact a proliferation of weapons in Darfur. It is said that there are as many weapons in Darfur as there are inhabitants. Again, the international community can partner with Sudanese authorities to take a step in the right direction where the issue of disarmament is concerned. We therefore need to move forward in our collective thinking in order to find solutions that respond to these challenges.
We are committed to the effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping, which is an essential tool for maintaining international peace and security. In view of the evolving challenges in Darfur, UNAMID will certainly need to evolve to provide the best response.
In that context, we support the initiative of the Secretariat and of the African Union Commission to conduct a strategic review of UNAMID. That work should assess the effectiveness of UNAMID with regard to its goal of contributing to sustainable peace and stability in Darfur. We therefore look forward to the recommendations that will be made by the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, which will be based on the review assessment. It is on that basis that we can consider what adjustments can be made to UNAMID to allow it best to respond to the current peace and security challenges in Darfur.