By Francis M. Deng
Expert Says Comprehensive Settlement Needs to Address Root causes of Displacement in Darfur and All.
The Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Dr. Francis M. Deng, issued the following statement today after his just-completed mission to the Sudan focusing on the crisis in the Darfur region:
“At the invitation of the Government, I visited the Sudan from 25 July to 1 August 2004. The visit focused on the internal displacement crisis in the Darfur region, which now affects about 1.2 million persons.
During a part of the mission, I was accompanied by the Commissioner-General of the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC).
In addition to meetings with Government representatives in Khartoum, I visited the three states of Northern, Southern and Western Darfur where I met with the local state Governors (Walis), Ministers, Government officials, NGOs, the Cease Fire Commission of the African Union, and United Nations officials.
In all three states I visited a number of sites hosting internally displaced persons as well as a village in Western Darfur to which a number of previously displaced persons were reported to have recently returned.
In Western Darfur I joined the mission of the Joint Implementation Mechanism (JIM) established to monitor the implementation of the joint communiqué of 3 July 2004 of the Government of the Sudan and the United Nations.
I had hoped to visit the country earlier, but had been forced to postpone my mission due to a number of factors.
By the time of the visit, Darfur had drawn much international attention and high level visits, including by the United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, the United States Secretary of State, Mr. Colin Powell, and other prominent international personalities. The question was what value such a mission would bring to the situation.
I decided that I had to undertake the mission and dialogue with the authorities in my dual capacity both as Representative of the Secretary-General and as a Sudanese with a particular concern for my country and its people.
And indeed, throughout my discussions with the authorities and the internally displaced I emphasized that dual identity.
From that vantage point, I called for intimate and candid probing into the situation to explore the truth as a basis for a constructive dialogue in the search for effective solutions to the crisis. My discussions with the authorities were indeed privileged by openness, candour and cordiality, and for this I am very grateful.
On the substantive issues, contrary to official statements about improvement of the security situation and the voluntary return of the displaced, I found a situation of persistent insecurity and human rights violations as the paramount concern of the displaced.
While most of the displaced I spoke to expressed a desire to eventually return to their places of origin, they all strongly affirmed their unwillingness to return at this stage due to the prevailing situation of insecurity, mainly because of continued attacks by the so-called Janjaweed militia and other armed actors.
In the presence of Government officials, the displaced, encouraged by both myself and the HAC Commissioner-General to speak freely, complained about the pressure some officials exerted upon them to return. Some displaced persons were reported to have returned at one stage, but had again been displaced by attacks.
The very few returnees with whom I spoke found themselves in a very precarious and unsustainable situation, in constant fear of attacks. While the displaced appeared to be in relative safety inside the camps, they were generally fearful of venturing outside.