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African Union delegation says security situation in Jebel Marra prevents IDPs return

Uganda's Permanent Representative to the African Union, Mull S. Katende speaks to the press in Khartoum on 18 May 2017 (ST Photo)

May 18, 2017 (KHARTOUM) - A visiting delegation from the African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) Thursday has acknowledged the improvement of the situation in Darfur region, however, it underscored that security challenges in Jebel Marra area prevent the return of displaced civilians to their homes.

During a four-day visit to the Sudan, the AUPSC delegation led by the Uganda’s Permanent Representative to the African Union, Mull S. Katende toured the camps of displaced people in Nertiti of Central Darfur State and Shangil Tobaya, North Darfur.

The delegation will present a report to the Council on the security situation in the western Sudan region, ahead of the extension of Darfur hybrid peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) next June by the United Nations Security Council.

"The situation in Jebel Marra continues to be a source of concern but the situation in the North Darfur State has improved significantly," said Katende, adding that the return of IDPs in Nertiti camp is impeded by a lack of security in Jebel Marra.

"IDPs of Neretti camp have expressed fear of killing once they return to their villages. We know that there are clashes and their areas should be rehabilitated and to protect them."

The mountainous area witnessed last year clashes between the government forces and fighters of the Sudan Liberation Movement - Abdel Wahid. The rebel group rejects to join the African Union efforts for peace in Sudan.

For the IDPs from the areas where there is no violence now, Katende said they have the choice between returning voluntarily to their village of origins or integrating into the communities in which they currently live, adding that in the two options there is a need to provide services and facilitate their integration.

The Ugandan diplomat said he held a meeting with the Sudanese Presidential Assistant Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid to discuss the outcome of their visit and express their observations on the security situation in the region of Darfur.

He further called on the armed groups to join the national dialogue document and pointed to the government flexibility and readiness to accept those who want to join the process.

The Sudanese government and the three armed groups failed in August 2016 to sign a cessation of humanitarian hostilities agreement.

During a visit to Khartoum, the African Union chief mediator Thabo Mbeki said President al-Bashir welcomes efforts to bring the holdout groups to the framework National Document endorsed by the government-led dialogue process in October 2016.

However, the government has ruled out the organisation of a new national dialogue process initially included in a Roadmap Agreement signed with the opposition groups.

(ST)