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UN peacekeeping chief makes first visit to Sudans wartorn Darfur

9 October 2008The top United Nations peacekeeping official is on his first official visit to Sudan’s Darfur region, where the world body is slated to field its largest mission in an effort to stem a conflict that has already killed some 300,000 people directly or from resulting disease and malnutrition, and uprooted than 2.7 million others. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy met in El Fasher, North Darfur, with Minni Minawi, leader of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA/MM), one of the rebel factions that have been fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen for the past five years.The SLA/MM signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) with the Government two years ago but other rebel factions have yet to do so. In August the military chief of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), General Martin Luther Agwai, warned that the splintered rebel movements must unite at the negotiating table if there is to be a lasting solution to the conflict.UNAMID gave no details of Mr. Le Roy’s talks with Mr. Minnawi, who met with Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Taha last month when the two announced that they were turning a new page in their commitment to full implementation of the DPA and the formation of a joint military committee to ensure an end to all hostilities.At the time, UNAMID deputy head General Henry Anyidoho said he hoped the announcement would attract the non-signatories of the DPA to join the process in a more comprehensive accord.While in El Fasher, Mr. Le Roy also met with IDP representatives.UNAMID was deployed at the start of this year and will become the largest UN peacekeeping operation with some 26,000 personnel at full strength. Currently it has some 10,000 troops and police officers on the ground and still lacks essential equipment, including helicopters.Mr. Le Roy has already visited Southern Sudan where the Organization is fielding a separate operation – the 10,000-strong UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) monitoring a 2005 peace agreement that ended the 21-year-long north-south civil war, which killed at least 2 million people and displaced 4.5 million others. read more