UN says Darfur is now a 'low-intensity conflict'
UN envoy says risk of escalation into war remains.
US refers to situation as ongoing genocide.
Monday, 27 April 2009 Reuters report by Louis Charbonneau:
Darfur is now a 'low-intensity conflict' - U.N.
UNITED NATIONS - The situation in Sudan's western Darfur region, which Washington has described as genocide, has subsided into a "low-intensity conflict," a top international envoy said on Monday.
Briefing the U.N. Security Council, the joint U.N.-African Union special representative to Darfur, Rodolphe Adada, told the 15 member states that around 130-150 people were dying each month due to violence in Darfur, a region roughly the size of France.
"The situation has changed from the period of intense hostilities in 2003-2004 when tens of thousands of people were killed," Adada told the council. "Today, in purely numerical terms it is a low-intensity conflict."
But he also said there was a "high risk of escalation."
"This risk of active war is ever present, and it is my duty to warn this council about those hazards," Adada said.
According to figures collected by the U.N.-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, some 2,000 people died from violence in the region during the 15 months between Jan. 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009, one third of them civilians.
The council was discussing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's latest report on UNAMID, in which he warns that Khartoum's decision to expel 13 foreign and three domestic humanitarian aid organizations had put "over 1 million people at life-threatening risk" in Darfur.
Sudan's U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, dismissed the report, saying the estimate was "a big lie."
Khartoum said it expelled the humanitarian aid agencies because they collaborated with the Hague-based International Criminal Court, which issued a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir last month.
The court charged Bashir with plotting mass killings and deportations across Darfur.
Ban's report said there were just over 15,600 peacekeepers on the ground at the end of March, well below the force's mandated strength of 26,000.
"We think that by the end of the year we could be almost at the full deployment of the mission," Adada told reporters after the meeting. But he said they still lacked crucial military hardware, above all helicopters to move troops quickly.
Adada's overall assessment of the conflict differs from the way Washington has viewed events in Darfur. Former U.S. President George W. Bush's administration referred to it as "genocide in slow motion," saying many deaths resulted from disease, neglect and poor conditions in crowded refugee camps.
President Barack Obama's envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, reaffirmed on Jan. 26 that Darfur was in the midst of "ongoing genocide."
Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also support the view that Darfur is still in the throes of genocide orchestrated by the Khartoum government, a charge it rejects.
U.N. officials say as many as 300,000 people have died and more than 2.7 million driven from their homes in almost six years of ethnic and political violence. Some 4.7 million people rely on humanitarian aid. Khartoum says 10,000 have died.