RUMBEK, Sudan, Jan 22, 2005 (AP) — Fighting between government and rebels troops in Sudan’s western region of Darfur has decreased in the past month, but Arab militias still attack, rape and abduct villagers in the troubled region, the U.N. chief envoy to Sudan said Saturday.
- Jan Pronk
"The violence is still perpetrated by pro-government militias and other armed groups that are very difficult to control," Jan Pronk told the Associated Press. "They attack villages, abduct people and increasingly use rape as a tool of war.
"But between the government and the rebel movements, there is more adherence to the cease-fire than a month ago — and that is a step forward," Pronk said.
Sudan’s government and the two main rebel groups in Darfur signed cease-fire agreements in April and November, but they have frequently violated the deals meant to enable aid workers care for those affected by the violence.
The Darfur conflict started in February 2003 when two non-Arab African rebel groups took up arms for more power and resources. The government responded with a counterinsurgency campaign in which a mostly Arab militia known as the Janjaweed has committed wide-scale abuses against people it says are allied to the rebels.
Pronk is in Rumbek for talks with John Garang, the leader of the main southern rebel group that signed a peace agreement with the government to end 21 years of war in southern Sudan. The deal does not cover the Darfur conflict.
Pronk is seeking to resolve differences with southern rebels over the composition of a U.N. peacekeeping force for the region. He will also press rebels to allow the peacekeepers to carry weapons, and to enter and leave the region without applying for permits.