Fresh fighting in West Kordofan and North Darfur
Also, a UN report says UN Advance Mission in Sudan (UNAMIS) reported fighting on Tuesday in Darfur between Sudanese Government forces and Darfur rebel group SLA. Government helicopter gunships were reported to have fired rockets at Sayah, a stronghold of the SLA in North Darfur. The number of casualties is unclear. Armed bandits are also reported to have attacked commercial buses and trucks across all three of Darfur's state and looted passengers of cattle and personal belongings.
Monday's clashes happened near Mellit, a town about 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of the North Darfur capital of Fasher. Both sides blame each other for starting the trouble.
The UN has sent out a plea for a three-day ceasefire Jan 10-12 to ensure thousands of children can be immunised to prevent a polio epidemic. A UN report says 40,000 volunteers will help with the immunisation of 5.9 million children or every child under the age of five across Sudan. Crikey. Where on earth do 40,000 volunteers come from and how do they get to Darfur?
- - -
UN OFFICIALS ARE INVESTIGATING LARGE NUMBERS OF REFUGEES RETURNING TO TINA
In North Darfur, UN humanitarian officials are being dispatched to an area around Tina to determine whether conditions there are safe and appropriate for large numbers of refugees to return, reports the Sudan Tribune.
The mission was arranged after refugees began returning to the area following an agreement between the Sudanese Government and the rebel National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD), one of several rebel groups fighting with Khartoum.
- - -
UN WFP EXPECTS TO INCREASE DARFUR RELIEF THIS YEAR, DESPITE INSECURITY
UN World Food Program (WFP) had to suspend aid to some areas in Darfur but a VOA report says WFP operations will expand this year, despite continued lack of security and other aid agencies leaving.
WFP say they reached 1.3 million people in December. Later this year, starting around July, food needs will increase among the displaced. A spokesperson for the WFP said:
"What we had to do, and this was around the 27th of December, was to suspend our truck convoys because of fighting that was taking place in West Kordofan and this fighting was affecting the main route we use for land transport from central Sudan all the way through Darfur, so virtually road transport was suspended. What we had to do was to find an alternative route to be able to keep supplies moving into Darfur which we have done, but unfortunately it is a much rougher route, much longer, therefore more costly."
- - -
UN SAYS DARFUR REBEL THREAT SPELLS DISASTER
A report from IOL on Jan 5 says the SLA, one of two main Darfur rebel groups, threatened to withdraw from a ceasefire monitoring commission in Darfur. This would spell disaster for the faltering peace process, the UN said on Wednesday. It also said mediation between the warring parties was stuck with neither side willing to make concessions.
"The African Union and Chadian mediation is trying to do their best but we can only agree that this is not working," said a UN spokeswoman in Khartoum. "We know it is not working. Basically, I would say again just because the parties are still not in a mood for real talks."
A Chadian official at the Darfur peace talks blamed the rebels for the peace meeting's failure. "The rebels came with preconditions from the start of this meeting, only to scupper any talks," he told Reuters. He said the rebels had not respected their commitments under the April agreement to inform the AU of their positions.
- - -
NEXT ROUND OF DARFUR PEACE TALKS SET FOR JANUARY 28
A UN spokeswoman is quoted as saying the next round of Darfur peace talks in the Nigerian capital Abuja has been tentatively set for January 28.
The Darfur rebel group, JEM said it will not return to talks mediated by the AU, which it wants replaced by the UN.
The UN spokewoman said this was not currently an option.
"The mediation is being undertaken by the AU. That's still our stance," she told reporters in Khartoum. "So far there are no talks within the UN premises on taking over the AU role at all whatsoever."
- - -
SUDAN EMBASSY RESPONDS
In the Jakarta Post, the Sudan Embassy in Jakarta responds with a letter.
- - -
JOINT COMMISSION CALLS ON SUDAN TO WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM AREAS IT SEIZED FROM DARFUR REBELS
A report at Sudan Tribune confirms the Joint Commission that are monitoring a ceasefire deal said on Wednesday Sudanese troops should immediately withdraw from areas they seized from rebels in Darfur during the last round of peace talks.