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Darfur status quo could lead to more bloodshed, AU-UN envoy says

UNITED NATIONS New York (Xinhua) -- The head of the African Union (AU) and United Nations peacekeeping operations in Sudan’s Darfur, Jeremiah N. Mamabolo, said here Tuesday that the Darfur status quo could lead to more bloodshed as a “different” Darfur has emerged since 2003.

Mamabolo said while briefing the UN Security Council that “the Darfur of today is a very different place from what the region was in 2003, when the armed conflict began, and from that of a year ago.”

Fighting between forces of the government of Sudan and the main three non-signatory armed movements has considerably diminished. However, against the backdrop of economic hardship and social depression, banditry and criminality continue to be widespread.

Mamabolo said that efforts to get parties to the conflict to sign a cessation of hostilities agreement and to start direct negotiations towards an inclusive peace agreement have remained inconclusive.

He warned that the status quo is hurting all parties and can only lead to more bloodshed.

Meanwhile, he also stressed the need to identify durable solutions to enable the return of internally displaced people to their places of origin or reintegration.

“In view of the current circumstances in Darfur, a pragmatic reconfiguration of UNAMID (the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur) will become necessary and the AU and UN will have to focus on how best that could be done without compromising the gains thus far made,” said Mamabolo.

He said that on March 5-17, UNAMID received an AU-UN strategic review team, which met with the government of Sudan in Khartoum and Darfur, and travelled throughout the Darfur region. UNAMID awaits the outcome of these deliberations.

The three strategic priorities established by the Council in 2014 continue to provide a framework within which UNAMID implements its mandate to protect civilians, mitigate inter-communal conflicts and mediate between the government and the non-signatory armed movements.

The past three months have also witnessed a continued reduction in the number of inter-communal security incidents, in particular as a result of the more effective involvement of the native administrations and the impact of security measures by State governments, leading to an increased number of peace agreements.

Furthermore, UNAMID has not seen any new displacement in 2017.

Cooperation with the government has noticeably improved in terms of humanitarian access. UNAMID and the UN country team have repeatedly been able to visit previously off-limits areas in Jebel Marra while UN humanitarian partners are commencing regular helicopter flights to Golo.

However, efforts by the AU High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) to get warring parties to sign a cessation of hostilities agreement and start direct negotiations towards an inclusive peace agreement to end the conflict have remained inconclusive, Mamabolo said.

Although the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid al-Nur (SLA/AW) is no longer capable of mounting and sustaining significant military operations, it continues to refuse to join the peace process and seems to want to continue to fight, he explained.

“We would like to appeal to this Council and those with influence and leverage on him to persuade him to recognize the importance of a political settlement and desist from bringing more suffering to the very people that he professes to represent,” Mamabolo said.

In February 2015, a tripartite committee composed of Sudan’s government, the UN and the African Union, was formed with the aim to reach a deal on UNAMID’s exit from Darfur.

UNAMID took over the peacekeeping task in Darfur from the African Union Mission in Sudan on Dec. 31, 2007.

The UNAMID is considered the second biggest peacekeeping mission in the world, after the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It consists of over 20,000 personnel of military, police and civilian components, with a budget of 1.4 million U.S. dollars in 2013.


UN welcomes Sudan’s extension of children protection plan

KHARTOUM Sudan (Xinhua) -- The United Nations on Tuesday welcomed Sudan government’s extension of the Action Plan for the Protection of Children from Violations in Armed Conflict.

The UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting hailed the substantial progress Sudan has made to implement and reaffirm the commitment, to which the country and the UN will make joint effort for the rights of children in Sudan, according to a UN statement.

The statement pointed to the key milestones in the implementation of the plan by the Sudanese government, including the release of 21 children formerly associated with armed groups, and their receipt of presidential pardons.

“In addition, the government has enacted laws and policies to prevent the recruitment and use of children in its forces, and provided the UN access for the purposes of monitoring and verification,” it added.

The UN also said that it would work together with the Sudanese government to address other gaps in the full implementation of the action plan.

The plan set out a series of measures to enhance the overall protection of children affected by armed conflict, including the cessation and prevention of child recruitment.

Sudan has been fighting the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)/northern sector at South Kordofan and Blue Nile states since 2011. It has also been fighting armed groups in Darfur since 2003.


Africa looks for solutions to quelea birds threating food security

KHARTOUM Sudan(Xinhua) -- Regional workshop sessions to identify a strategy to control quelea kicked off on Tuesday in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.

A total of 13 African countries participated in the workshop as well as the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Quelea, a red-billed small bird, is one of the most dangerous agricultural pests threatening food security in Africa, despite efforts exerted by the continent’s countries to get rid of the risk of birds in general.

Scientists estimate the number of quelea, originating from Africa, at around 100 million, with an average daily grain consumption of 10 grams per one, thus a flock of two million quelea birds can devour 20 tons of grain in one day.

“Representatives from a number of African countries and FAO experts are participating in this important conference, due to the danger posed by the quelea bird on food security in Africa,” said Sudan’s Agriculture Minister Ibrahim Al-Dekheiri during the workshop’s opening session.

“Flocks of quelea birds attack and destroy millions of hectares of agricultural farms and fields annually, leading to substantial grain deficiency in the African continent,” he noted.

He added that Sudan loses millions of U.S. dollars on plans placed by the Plant Protection Directorate, an affiliate of Sudan’s Ministry of Agriculture, to face pest birds, namely quelea birds.

He brought up international agreements, including the Rotterdam Convention, concerning finding safer alternatives to spray fenthion, a chemical pesticide, where quelea birds breed or live.

The FAO estimates the agricultural loss resulting from quelea birds at over 50 million dollars annually.

Elwathig Osman Mukhtar, Assistant FAO Resident Representative in Sudan, said the workshop endeavors to empower the African continent to overcome the risk of pest birds, particularly quelea birds.

“These birds are a great threat to Africa’s food security, one of the main causes of famine, therefore, we must unite our efforts and find applicable solutions in the face of this risk,” he told reporters.

He further noted that regional countries tend to have a road-map in order to find alternatives and develop pilot projects to completely eliminate quelea birds through safer alternatives for both humans and the environment.

Quelea birds are found in several African countries all the way from South Africa to North Africa such as Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mauritania as well as the African coast.

Sudan has been suffering from quelea bird flock attacks against agriculture, particularly in the Gezira State in central Sudan and the Northern State in Northern Sudan, which constitute major agricultural areas for grain cultivation, namely maize and wheat.

Dr. Fawziya Abbas, Deputy General Director of the Plant Protection Directorate in Sudan said Sudan is one of the most affected African countries by quelea birds.

“Thousands of farms are affected by quelea birds’ flock attacks, and local measures have failed to decrease the catastrophe. We look forward to finding scientific alternatives in this conference,” she told reporters on Tuesday.


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