Speech by Minister Dermot Ahern to Dáil Éireann on Darfur
I wish to share my time with Deputy Carey, whom I thank for first suggesting an all-party motion on Darfur.
I am pleased to have an opportunity to move the motion, which allows Dáil Eireann with a unified voice to express its deep concern about the continuing crisis in Darfur.
The motion itself sets out the range of issues which makes the situation in Darfur so grave and so complex. I wish to focus on just a few key points, and to bring the House up to date on the latest developments.
While the situation is very complex, the conflict has since 2003 caused huge social upheaval and human suffering. We cannot forget that basic point.
Estimates vary, but we believe that at least 200,000 people have lost their lives as a direct and indirect result of the conflict. Furthermore, more than two million people have been displaced from their homes and their livelihoods.
Currently 4 million people, two thirds of Darfur’s population, are in continuing need of humanitarian aid.
Faced with so serious and dangerous a situation, the international community has focussed on three main challenges:
- bringing aid to the millions who need it;
- trying to encourage the parties to the conflict to cease their violence and reach a political settlement;
- creating and deploying an international peacekeeping force which is sufficiently robust, large and well-equipped to provide the basic security which is essential if the first two goals - the delivery of humanitarian assistance and working towards a political settlement – are to be achieved.
As regards humanitarian assistance, Ireland has provided over €16 million in to Darfur since 2004. Total Irish Aid funding to Sudan in the same period exceeds €32 million. I salute the courage and dedication of the UN agencies and of the NGOs, including those from Ireland, who work so tirelessly. The dedication of the mostly young people who work in Darfur is an inspiration.
However, continuing violence and attacks on humanitarian workers are making it very difficult for agencies on the ground. Jan Egeland, the UN’s Humanitarian Relief Coordinator, warned the Security Council on 22 November that large parts of Darfur are seeing a meltdown of law and order. He cautioned that the rampant insecurity was taking its toll on the delivery capacity of an increasingly beleaguered humanitarian community and warned that, if that trend continued, the situation in Darfur would spiral out of control.
The shrinking space for humanitarian delivery is of huge concern to the Irish NGOs. Attacks which affect humanitarian workers are in direct contravention of international humanitarian law. We are concerned about the safety of our own people, about the NGO community in general and of course about their capacity to deliver the assistance they are there to supply.
The collective efforts of the international community to restore peace and security have not succeeded. Successive ceasefires have been broken by all sides. The Sudanese Government has failed to implement its pledges to disarm the Janjaweed. A recent report by the UN’s panel of experts monitoring the arms embargo indicates that it is being blatantly violated by all parties.
While the Darfur Peace Agreement was rightly hailed as providing a comprehensive framework for the restoration of stability, it has been seriously undermined by the fact that many major rebel groups have not signed it. Little has been achieved in terms of implementation. Indeed, both the signatories and the non- signatories have been intensifying their military activities.
AMIS has done a reasonable job in the areas in which it has operated, but has been hampered by its small size, by logistical and command and control shortfalls, by lack of enforcement capacity and by refusal of cooperation by the parties.
Because of concerns about AMIS’ ability to fulfil its role, the international community – including the AU itself - agreed earlier this year on the need for transition of this force to a UN mission. On 31 August the UN Security Council authorized the sending of 17,300 UN troops and 5,300 civilian police to Darfur to support implementation of the Peace Agreement.
But the resolution invited the consent of the Sudanese Government. Since President Bashir remains firmly opposed to the implementation of this Security Council decision, it has not been possible to deploy a UN peacekeeping force.
In an effort to unravel the current difficulties, on 16 November in Addis Ababa, the UN Secretary General and the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union co- chaired a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and of a number of African States, including Sudan.
It was agreed that the UN and the African Union should within 15 days organise a meeting between the signatories and the non- signatories of the Darfur Peace Agreement, with a view to reaching agreement before the end of 2006 on the amendments to this Peace Agreement which would enable the non- signatories to adhere to it. The African Union’s chief mediator for Sudan, Mr Salim Ahmed Salim, is currently visiting Khartoum in order to move this process forward.
The meeting also called on all parties to commit immediately to a cessation of hostilities. Because of the regional dimensions of the conflict, Chad and Sudan were urged to stop the fighting along their common border in Darfur and respect previous peace commitments.
Taking account of proposals by the UN Secretary General for a phased approach towards a strengthened peacekeeping operation in Darfur, the meeting agreed to expand the UN’s support to AMIS. More significantly, agreement in principle was reached on the deployment of a hybrid AU-UN force in Darfur. However, important issues remain to be resolved, including the size of the force and its command, control and reporting arrangements.
I welcome these developments, especially the agreement in principle on a hybrid UN- AU force. However, early acceptance by Sudan on the outstanding issues is essential. Sudan is to give its considered response at the meeting tomorrow of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council in Abuja.
Although recent signals from Khartoum are not encouraging, I would appeal in the strongest terms to President Bashir to endorse this agreement. In my view, the UN Secretary General’s proposals meet Sudan’s criteria that the peacekeeping force in Darfur should be basically African and that the African Union should maintain a strong leadership role.
There have been too many false dawns in this conflict for us to be foolishly optimistic about the present situation. But we must never despair. We owe it to the people of Darfur and their suffering to continue to support them and work for a solution to their plight, no matter how long or difficult the path.
The Government will continue to offer major financial assistance to Darfur for as long as it is needed. We will also continue to use all avenues and opportunities to highlight the crisis and to urge concerted action to resolve it.
Last July, I was the first EU Foreign Minister to visit Darfur since the signature of the Peace Agreement. I met with the Sudanese Foreign Minister in July in Khartoum and again in September in New York. Through bilateral meetings and letters, I have urged the leaders of key States such as Egypt, South Africa and Ethiopia to use their influence with Sudan.
A Cheann Comhairle, it is essential that efforts to resolve the situation in Darfur remain at the top of the international agenda. Ireland will continue to play a full and active role in these efforts and I personally will continue to explore every avenue open to us. In so doing I know I will carry with me the strong support of the House and of the Irish people. I am pleased to move the motion.
That Dáil Éireann,
- Notes with deep concern the appalling security, humanitarian and human rights situation in the Darfur region of Sudan and calls for an immediate end to the ongoing violations of human rights and international law, especially those affecting women and children;
- Recognises the serious implications of the situation for regional security, in particular as regards Chad, and for the stability of Sudan itself;
- Condemns all violations of the 2004 N’djamena Humanitarian Ceasefire Agrement, of the provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 1591 (2005) and of the May 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement;
- Calls on all parties in the strongest terms immediately to halt the violence, to protect civilians and to ensure full, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to all those in need in Darfur;
- Praises the continuing outstanding work of Irish and other NGOs to fulfil their humanitarian mission in extremely difficult conditions;
- Notes that Ireland has contributed over €16 million in support to Darfur over the period 2004- 2006;
- Reminds the leadership of the Sudanese Government of its collective and individual responsibility to protect all its citizens from violence and to guarantee respect for human rights;
- Fully supports UN Security Council Resolution 1706(2006) of 31 August 2006 and urges the Government of Sudan to give its unambiguous consent to the implementation of this Resolution and the deployment of a United Nations peace-keeping force, in order to ensure the protection of the civilian population and support the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement;
- Welcomes the decision of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council to extend the mandate of AMIS, the African Union’s Mission in Sudan, until 31 December 2006, in order to avoid a security vacuum in Darfur; and urges the Council at its meeting on 29 November 2006 to extend the mandate of AMIS into 2007;
- Welcomes, in the absence to date of the consent of the Government of Sudan to a UN mission, the agreement in principle on the deployment of a hybrid United Nations/African Union peacekeeping operation in Darfur, reached at the high- level meeting held in Addis Ababa on 16 November 2006, and urges the Government of Sudan to reach agreement without delay on the outstanding issues;
- Acknowledges that long-term security in Darfur can only be guaranteed by full implementation of the May 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement and welcomes current efforts to bring non- signatories into this Agreement.
-Supports the efforts of the Government to highlight the situation in international fora, including the United Nations and the European Union, and to encourage all those with influence over the Sudanese Government to persuade it to meet its obligations and respond to the wishes of the international community and commits itself to taking such other measures as may be appropriate for advancing a peace process.
29 November 2006