As the ongoing conflict in the Sudanese region of Darfur appears to be one of the most urgent topics the international community has to deal with today, we were all tensely looking forward to the briefing. The presentation was given by Mr. Patrick Hayford from the Office of the Special Advisor for Africa. He intended to give us an overview on the country, its problems and the origins of the conflicts. His presentation revealed that the topic of Sudan is of personal importance to him.
Sudan is the biggest country in Africa, located at the center of the continent. Mr. Hayford described Sudan as a country of cross routes between the Arab World and Sub Saharan Africa. Its population is of great diversity and ethnically mixed.
|First, Mr. Hayford gave us an insight in the North South Peace Process, where one conflict had been resolved successfully with the help of the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operation UNMIS. The conflict between the Sudanese government and the Sudanese People Liberation Movement (SPLM) was not only about the major oil resources in southern Sudan but also about identity and sharing wealth and power. Mr. Hayford referred to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Government and the SPLM as a great opportunity for Sudan but he also saw great risks in the failure of the Peace Agreement that could even worsen the situation.|
In the next part of his presentation, Mr. Hayford talked about the conflict in the region of Darfur in East Sudan. He explained that Darfur means “Land of the Fur people” and that it covered a territory of the size of France. The region is mostly remote and has a bad infrastructure. The environment is extremely dry and therefore people suffer from water problems. Two major groups of people live in the region of Darfur: the group of settled farmers and the other group being nomads. Both groups depend on the small water resources. Mr. Hayford explained to us that all inhabitants were Muslims and that the conflict did not have religious reasons. Once there had been enough water resources and people had lived peacefully side by side. But due to climate change, resources began to shrink and first conflicts evolved. The conflict also spread because of an easy access to arms. Movements like the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) were founded. Concerned about a rebellion, the Sudanese Government overreacted and bombed the region. The different groups split up and started to fight each other. The whole conflict spilled over to neighboring countries as many people fled to their relatives in Chad and the Central African Republic. Deeply concerned, Mr. Hayford told us that the civilian population was suffering most from the conflict. Many people are displaced and living in camps lacking primary supply of water and food.
The United Nations is currently working in two fields regarding the situation in Darfur – a humanitarian and a political response. On the humanitarian side, the UN and several non-governmental organizations as for example the Red Cross try to grant basic help to the people living in camps. But this is very difficult as, on the one hand, many parts of the country are hard to reach because of the difficult territory and, on the other hand, any humanitarian aid depends on the acceptance by the government.
A political answer is as hard to find as a humanitarian one. The rebel groups are not very well organized so that the leadership is changing constantly. Negotiations lead by the African Union had been hard, and the Darfur Peace Agreement is not yet signed by all rebel leaders.
Mr. Hayford emphasized the need of an African solution, but he also pointed out the great difficulties of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) concerning resources, supply, command and control. He saw the need of a joint force of the African Union and the United Nations.
In addition to the problems AMIS is facing, Mr. Hayford explained the difficulties of the African Union to find a common and united position. He was very concerned about the consequences of an escalating conflict in Sudan on Sub-Saharan Africa.