SUDAN WATCH: UN envoy blames rebels for continuing insecurity in Darfur

Friday, October 29, 2004

UN envoy blames rebels for continuing insecurity in Darfur

The situation in Darfur has not improved during the past month, according to the UN's top envoy, Jan Pronk.

"Darfur remains grim and humanitarian access is limited," Pronk told reporters in Khartoum on Thursday ahead of his visit to New York to report on the Darfur conflict to the Security Council.

"It was the rebels who are responsible for attacking relief workers and convoys, they are responsible for burying landmines which killed two relief workers, Jan Pronk told reporters in Khartoum.

Two rebel groups - the SLA and the JEM are responsible for much of the recent violence in Darfur, he said.

Pronk accused the government and the rebels of continuing to violate an April ceasefire agreement signed in Chad. He also accused the parties of escalating military operations and urged them to "put the interests of the people of Darfur in front of their eyes and speed up reaching a political agreement in Abuja."

The UN envoy said despite the setback he remained optimistic that the two sides would reach an agreement. He added that he had also noted attacks by the pro-government Arab Janjaweed militias had eased, "except for a few of them who are engaged in robbing and looting".

Pronk will present a monthly report to Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council early next week, on what Khartoum is doing to meet its pledges.

A Goodwill Ambassador for the Office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Angelina Jolie, told reporters at a press conference in Khartoum on Wednesday that conditions were too dangerous for the region's vast population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their homes, UN News reported.
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The fifth day of the Darfur peace talks moved on to discussion of a political settlement.

Rebel leaders' demand that Islam be kept out of government in Darfur, has been rejected by government negotiators.

Rebel leaders have used the talks to call for a clear division between religion and the state in Sudan.

"We are now prepared to start deliberations on the political issues, following the appeal of the international observers and facilitators," spokesman for the rebel SLM, said.

"We want a clear distinction between the state and religion. Right now in Sudan you have a situation where Islam is given prominence over other religions.

"This shouldn't be so. Even though I'm a Muslim, we want religion to be a personal thing with every citizen having the freedom to practice what he believes in."

The demand has been immediately rejected by Government negotiators, who insisted that mainly-Muslim northern Sudan, including Darfur, should be governed under the principles of Islamic law.

"Darfur is in the north, so Sharia law should apply. It is not negotiable," Abdul Zuma, media adviser to the Sudanese Government at the talks, said.

Darfur's black African tribes are predominantly Muslim but regard themselves as culturally separate from the Arabs, who dominate the Khartoum Government.

In earlier peace negotiations with mainly Christian rebels in southern Sudan the Government conceded that Sharia law would not apply there under an eventual settlement, but the western region of Darfur was not included in the offer.


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