Herve Ladsous, the UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, speaks during a press briefing regarding the situation in Darfur, at the UN headquarters in New York, on March 17, 2015. Ladsous said on Tuesday that the security and humanitarian situations in the Darfur region of Sudan "deteriorated significantly" over the past year, and there had also been no tangible progress toward resolving the conflict. (Xinhua/Niu Xiaolei)
UNITED NATIONS, March 17 (Xinhua) -- A senior UN official said on Tuesday the security and humanitarian situations in the Darfur region of Sudan "deteriorated significantly" over the past year, and there had also been no tangible progress toward resolving the conflict.
Herve Ladsous, the UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, made the remarks when he was presenting two reports to the UN Security Council, including one specifically dedicated to implementation by the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) of new strategic priorities, which highlights progress made and difficulties encountered during the exercise.
"The current upsurge in Darfur, at least for now, is largely attributable to the ongoing Government of Sudan and the RSF (Rapid Support Forces -- a counter-insurgency militia) military offensive, " Ladsous said, adding that it was not "directly linked with the forthcoming Sudanese general elections."
The UN peacekeeping chief warned that events on the ground could change as election campaigns intensified, particularly in light of recent calls by Sheikh Musa Hilal, a prominent tribal leader in North Darfur, for an election boycott and disruption of the electoral process across Darfur.
Also, if the threat did actualise, existing inter-tribal tensions may heighten as strict security measures and additional government security forces were deployed, he said.
Meanwhile, Ladsous also touched upon the Sudanese government's "Decisive Summer" military offensive against non-signatory armed groups, saying that the national army had significantly weakened and isolated the armed groups geographically.
The offensive also caused "significant loss of lives and large- scale displacement," he said.
Around 450,000 people in total were displaced in 2014, as a result of violence, Ladsous noted, adding that there was a higher volume in any single year since the peak of the conflict in 2004.
At least 300,000 of those remain displaced, mostly in camps for internally displaced persons, with the total number of displaced persons in Darfur now totalling 2.5 million.
"This negative trend has continued most recently with the continuation of fighting between the Government and the armed groups," he said, pointing to "at least 43,000 new displacements since the beginning of the year."
Noting that the situation on the ground was worsening, Ladsous said prospects for holding the National Dialogue between the government and the opposition before the election were limited, with talks on Darfur breaking down and the government implementing measures curtailing political freedom.
However, in February, the Berlin Declaration was signed, which called for the convening of an inclusive preparatory meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, to revive the talks.
"The Berlin Declaration seems to demonstrate a certain consensus among the opposition to reengage in the National Dialogue," he said, referring to the document signed by the opposition forces in the German capital on Feb. 27.
Earlier this month, the Sudanese government issued a statement to formally welcome the Berlin Decalaration, saying that the country's ruling party "welcomes any meetings or understandings that would lead to everyone's participation in the national dialogue, like the ones that took place before in Addis Ababa, as long as these meetings have set preconditions that are well prepared for."
The preparatory National Dialogue meetings are to discuss the humanitarian crises in Sudan, the ending of the wars in Darfur, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile, and the resolution of their root causes as well as the procedures for the National Dialogue process.
Throughout 2014, rebels were urged to participate in the peace process based on the Doha agreement and without preconditions. Direct negotiations took place in November but were suspended because the parties were too far apart, while UNAMID continued to provide sites and camps for displaced people and continued to support efforts to address the root causes of the conflict by engaging traditional chiefs, civil society and others.
On the UN mission, Ladsous said that the efforts taken to address the three main challenges to its mandate implementation, which were identified in last year's strategic review, including improved cooperation with the government in some areas, implementation of measures to improve the mission's troops' operational capabilities and effectiveness on the ground, and improvements to coordination and management structures.
The United Nations has about 19,000 troops in Darfur, which has been hit by conflict since 2003.
"Nevertheless, some of the major challenges remain," he said, listing the need to improve the mission's reporting of incidents and analysis, its internal and external communications approach, and the recruitment of personnel to key posts.
"Despite strategic and operational-level improvements in coordination with the United Nations Country Team, further progress on establishing an effective Darfur-wide early warning and response system is required," he added.