KHARTOUM, Aug 18 (Reuters) – The United Nations said on Wednesday it was very concerned by Sudan’s lack of practical progress in bringing security to Darfur, where more than a million people have fled their homes for fear of militia attack.
Sudan has less than two weeks to prove to the U.N. Security Council it has made progress towards disarming marauding Arab militias known as Janjaweed, or face possible sanctions.
The spokeswoman for the U.N. special envoy to Sudan said the Khartoum government had satisfied the United Nations so far in drawing up plans to ensure security for the Darfur displaced, but the next 10 days would be crucial to determine if the government was implementing its promises to the world body.
“We are still concerned, very much so, by the lack of progress on the ground,” spokeswoman Radhia Achouria told reporters in Khartoum, specifically referring to security in the camps for displaced people.
“(Special envoy) Jan Pronk has said that he is very satisfied so far with the actual formulation of the action to be taken,” she said, adding that implementation would be evaluated over the coming period.
She added the next 10 days, including a visit to Darfur by senior U.N. officials in Khartoum on Aug. 26, would be “crucial and critical” in deciding whether Sudan was meeting the demands of the July 30 U.N. Security Council resolution.
Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail said in Nigeria on Tuesday that Sudan planned to double to 20,000 the number of police deployed in Darfur to provide security.
The African Union is also increasing its military presence. Rwandan troops arrived in Darfur on Sunday and a Nigerian contingent is expected to join them next week.
After years of low-level conflict between farming communities and Arab nomads over dwindling resources, two groups launched a revolt in Darfur last year, accusing Khartoum of neglect and of arming the Janjaweed to loot and burn African farming villages in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Khartoum denies the charge and calls the Janjaweed outlaws. The U.N. estimates up to 50,000 people have died as a result of the conflict, either from violence or deprivation, and says the conflict has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Achouria said that the United Nations was still checking reports of sexual abuse of displaced women by Darfur police in one of the camps in Darfur, but that the organisation had no independent confirmation of the reports.
She said the U.N. officials visiting on Aug. 26 would inspect safe areas for refugees designated by the government before moving people back.
“What they are expecting is a substantial, irreversible, sustainable change and … improvement in the security in the safe areas,” she said, adding it would also affect a perimeter of 20 km (12 miles) around the camp.
Rebels and the government are due to begin peace negotiations in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Aug. 23. Peace talks failed in July after the government rejected preconditions set by the rebels.
[i]By Opheera McDoom
Mary Beaty UN NGO American Humanist Association[/i]