SUDAN WATCH: UN peacekeepers deeply worried about military build-up along Sudan-Chad border

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

UN peacekeepers deeply worried about military build-up along Sudan-Chad border

Sudanese ministers have said they will ignore any warrant, and UN peacekeeping chief Le Roy said UN peacekeepers have no mandate and will not move to arrest al-Bashir.

He said the UN has contingency plans to react to events on the ground, which he would not disclose. "It is our task to try to control as much as possible any crowd movement, to make sure they will not harm anyone, local or international," Le Roy said.

The undersecretary-general for peacekeeping said the UN has been "rather reassured" by its discussions with Sudanese government officials in recent months on the need to protect UN peacekeepers, "but at the same time we are deeply worried by what we see in some areas, mostly along the Chad-Sudan borders.

"There are increasing tensions, more military forces from the Chadian side on the Sudanese border ... probably Chadian rebels," he said.

Source: Associated Press report March 3, 2009:
UN in Sudan ready for ruling on Sudan's leader

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - U.N. peacekeepers in Sudan are prepared for violence if the International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir and are worried by a military build-up along the Sudan-Chad border, a top official said Monday.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Alain Le Roy welcomed government that they will protect peacekeepers in southern Sudan and the joint U.N.-African Union mission in Darfur against "any negative impact" from a possible court decision.

Le Roy told a news conference that peacekeepers will not scale back activities on Wednesday when judges at the court in The Hague, Netherlands, said they will announce whether they will order al-Bashir's arrest for his role in the six-year Darfur conflict.

Prosecutors at the ICC - the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal - asked last July that the Sudanese leader be arrested for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for masterminding a campaign of murder, torture and rape by government troops and Arab militias in the Darfur region.

Sudanese ministers have said they will ignore any warrant, and Le Roy said U.N. peacekeepers have no mandate and will not move to arrest al-Bashir.

But if the court orders the president's arrest, there could be public protests and possible attacks against the nearly 13,000 U.N. and African Union peacekeepers in Darfur, and the more than 13,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in semiautonomous southern Sudan to enforce a 2005 agreement which ended Africa's longest civil war.

"We don't fear that the U.N. mission will be specifically targeted by any group," Le Roy said. "I'm sure there will be some crowd movements. There will be some violence here and there. What we don't know is the level of violence, and we hope the government of Sudan will act responsibly to make sure that all beginning of violence will be stopped in due time."

He said the U.N. has contingency plans to react to events on the ground, which he would not disclose.

"It is our task to try to control as much as possible any crowd movement, to make sure they will not harm anyone, local or international," Le Roy said.

The undersecretary-general for peacekeeping said the U.N. has been "rather reassured" by its discussions with Sudanese government officials in recent months on the need to protect U.N. peacekeepers, "but at the same time we are deeply worried by what we see in some areas, mostly along the Chad-Sudan borders.

"There are increasing tensions, more military forces from the Chadian side on the Sudanese border ... probably Chadian rebels," he said.

While the U.N. has no proof that the "drastically increased" build-up on the border with the Darfur region is linked to the ruling by the court, Le Roy said the timing was probably "in the head" of those involved in beefing up the force.

"We are worried because we see this tension coming at the same time the ICC decision is coming," he said. "We know that many people have arms and weapons in the region and we see some buildup. And that's why - through statements and through various diplomatic channels - we try to (urge) all governments and rebels to exercise maximum restraint and not to use that difficult period to take any violent initiative.

The war in Darfur began in 2003 when rebel groups took up arms against the government complaining of discrimination and neglect. U.N. officials say up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million have fled their homes. A 26,000-strong U.N.-AU force is being deployed in Darfur to help protect civilians, and as of Tuesday over 12,900 - about 66 percent - will be on the ground, U.N. officials said.

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