FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Michael Stulman (202) 546-7961
Darfur Advocates Call on Special Envoy Gration to Make UNAMID Effectiveness a Top Priority
Dear General Gration:
As a broad coalition of human rights, faith based and advocacy organizations dedicated to achieving peace in Sudan, we urge your immediate leadership to support the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) in its efforts to provide protection to the long-suffering Darfuri civilians and to ensure a safe and secure operating environment for humanitarian aid operations.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s June 9, 2009 report on the status of UNAMID deployment included many troubling observations. Over the last two months, the force has faced a new wave of obstruction to its operations imposed by the Sudanese government. The Secretary-General noted that bureaucratic impediments, harassment by government soldiers, and restrictions to UNAMID’s movement "signal a negative trend with regard to the Government’s cooperation with UNAMID," which in turn has a negative effect on security for civilians and the humanitarian aid operations on which they depend.
As such, we urge you to make the Sudanese government’s ongoing violations of its UNAMID commitments a priority at every level of your diplomatic engagement, particularly as the Sudanese government seems in the midst of a new effort to cast its actions in a favorable light to the international community.
In the wake of the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s July 2008 charges against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese government launched an extensive diplomatic campaign to convince the UN Security Council to defer the investigation. The Sudanese government’s rhetoric in the months following the announcement sought to prove to the international community that the Sudanese government was truly committed to peace in Darfur. Recent comments from chief Sudanese negotiator Ghazi Atabani similarly proclaim Sudan’s willingness to be an equal partner in peace.
However, the reality on the ground has been much different. According to the Secretary-General, over the last two months, the Sudanese government’s promises to end their harassment and blockage of UNAMID have been tested and have consistently failed.
On multiple occasions, the Sudanese government imposed arbitrary restrictions on UNAMID’s freedom of movement – a direct violation of the status-of-forces agreement. Additionally, the Sudanese National Intelligence and Security Service obstructed the implementation of UNAMID quick-impact projects, confiscated $77,000 in UN distributed funds, and outrageously detained and interrogated UNAMID staff. Flying in the face of its public rhetoric, the NISS even arbitrarily canceled a UNAMID-organized conflict resolution, peace-building and reconciliation workshop. Finally, despite repeated promises to ease visa pressures for UNAMID, the Secretary-General writes that "delays in the issuance of visas by the Government of Sudan to UNAMID personnel has resulted in 521 total visa applications pending, 308 of which were requested prior to May 2009."
In addition to the obvious negative effects Khartoum’s obstructions are having on UNAMID’s ability to protect civilians under threat of violence, humanitarian aid delivery is being adversely affected as well. International humanitarian presence in south and west Darfur is at 64 per cent of the still far from ideal pre-expulsion levels. Recent fighting and insecurity in north Darfur has effectively confined humanitarian access to El Fasher, highlighted by the recent aid agency "helicopter-jacking" in the area. The ongoing lack of security for aid operations in the wake of President Bashir’s decision to end the operations of major aid agencies has significantly degraded subsequent efforts to restore aid to those who need it most. To cite an example from the Secretary-General’s report, the distribution of seeds and tools to 797,000 people could not take place ahead of the rainy season this year, which will create further hardship and significant impact on the coming harvest.
As the Sudanese government begins yet another public relations campaign designed to convince the world that this time it is serious about peace in Darfur, it is imperative that you hold its leaders to their commitments on UNAMID. As you know, the effectiveness of the force is a daily matter of life and death for the civilians in Darfur.
In the wake of these fresh reports of continuing obstructionist tactics, bilateral pressure from the United States is critical. At the same time, you must focus attention on strengthening UNAMID’s civilian protection efforts despite Khartoum’s attempts to hinder them. We encourage you to prepare a plan to use a substantial portion of the $45 million in Fiscal Year 2010 Peacekeeping Operations funds requested by President Obama and recently passed and obligated for Sudan by the House Appropriations Committee to bolster the UNAMID force. This can be done through continued support for the ongoing African train-equip-and-deploy programs and other avenues through which bilateral U.S. funding can facilitate a more effective UNAMID force.
The Sudanese government has consistently shown that it is willing to make rhetorical concessions, but is all too often unwilling to deliver substantive change. Given this long-running track record, we urge you to put Sudan’s latest promises to the test by pressing Sudan’s leaders on ending their obstruction of UNAMID operations, securing unimpeded access for humanitarian aid operations, and ensuring independent monitoring of on the ground activity.
Save Darfur Coalition
CC: President Barack Obama
The Enough Project
American Jewish World Service
Rabbi Steve Gutow
President & CEO
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Genocide Intervention Network
Tzivia Schwartz Getzug
Jewish World Watch
James E. Winkler
General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
Armenian National Committee of America
Rabbi Jeffrey A. Wohlberg
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Institute for the Study of Genocide
Southern Sudanese Voice for Freedom
Director of Legislative Affairs
B’nai B’rith International
Darfur Relief and Documentation Centre
National Vice President
Rabbi Marion Shulevitz
Mahmoud A. M. Braima
Darfur Association in the USA
US representative to the UN
Society for Threatened Peoples (US branch)
Founder and Coordinator
Genocide No More
Darfur Development Organization
Americans Against the Darfur Genocide
Investor Against Genocide
Annapolis Friends Meeting
Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition
Executive Committee Member
San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition
Dear Sudan Love Marin
Rabbi Samuel B. Press
Rabbi Emeritus, Beth Abraham Synagogue
Chair and Founder
Kentuckiana Interfaith Taskforce on Darfur
I STOP Genocide
Eileen B. Weiss
NYC Coalition for Darfur
Director of Communications
Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur
Sara Caine Kornfeld
"Change the world. It just takes cents" TM
Affiliation of Christian Engineers
Sacramento Committee on Conscience