My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Sudan remains a priority for the UK Government. The Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are jointly supporting the Government of Sudan to implement the Darfur peace agreement (DPA) signed on 5 May and to deliver development in Sudan.
Together with our international partners, we call on the Government of Sudan and SLM-Minni Minnawi to implement the agreement without delay. We are providing support for immediate implementation needs, including assistance for the African Union (AU) to publicise the DPA and its benefits on the ground. The UK is also engaged with the Darfur joint assessment mission on recovery and development. We are disappointed that the SLM/A Abdel Wahid faction and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) have not signed the DPA.
The African Union (AU) troops continue to do an important and much needed job in seeking to ease the suffering of the people of Darfur, but they need to be replaced by a UN peacekeeping operation. The Sudanese Government have not yet agreed to this. Kofi Annan is explicit that he wants a UN force in Darfur; the Security Council has taken a strong line. The African Union wants such a force, as do many leading African countries. We will continue to press the Government of Sudan to accept it and call on others to do the same.
Lord Triesman, the Minister for Africa, attended the AU summit on 1 and 2 July in Banjul to push for faster progress in implementing the DPA and for an early handover from AMIS to the UN.
The UK will be represented at an AU donors’ conference on 18 July in Brussels. We are encouraging the AU and other participants to use the conference to address how the AU and the international community can help to take forward the Darfur peace agreement.
On Friday 23 June, the Government of Sudan publicly began disarming a small group of Janjaweed in south Darfur, witnessed by UK and US embassy representatives. We welcome this step and will call on the Government to continue this work and to present a plan for neutralising and disarming the Janjaweed/armed militias, as they are required to do under the Darfur peace agreement (DPA).
On 25 June, the Sudanese Government suspended all UN activity in Darfur apart from humanitarian assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF. They lifted the suspension the following day. This had some impact on the UN's humanitarian work in west Darfur, but minimal disruption elsewhere. It was a provocative act by the Sudanese Government in response to the UN helping a prominent Darfur rebel. The Government of Sudan should allow UN humanitarian agencies and NGOs unimpeded access in Darfur. Some 3.6 million people are affected by the conflict, of whom 2 million are internally displaced persons (IDPs). The UK is the second biggest bilateral humanitarian donor to the Darfur crisis (after the US), contributing over £126 million since September 2003. On 9 May, I announced a further £9 million to the multi-donor Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF), bringing our total allocation to £49 million this year. The UK is now providing more to the UN work plan in 2006 than in 2005.
We are concerned about the IDPs in Darfur and the temporary cutting of rations by the World Food Programme (WFP). The WFP was forced to halve its rations in Darfur in May due to lack of funding, but rations have now been improved to 84 per cent as a result of recent US and Government of Sudan contributions (20,000 metric tonnes of cereals). We welcome this announcement, as it comes at a critical time in the year, with the rainy season starting in Darfur. The full ration will be restored by October and we are working with the UN and the largest food aid donors (EU and US) to ensure that shortfalls are prevented in the future. The UK is also funding nutritional safety net programmes to mitigate the impact of reduced rations on the most vulnerable in Darfur.
We condemn the continuing cross-border attacks from Darfur into eastern Chad, which have led to the displacement of 50,000 Chadians within Chad and further numbers fleeing across the border into Darfur. Eastern Chad now hosts 200,000 refugees from Darfur, and there are 45,000 from the Central African Republic in the south. Further insecurity in eastern Chad would have very serious humanitarian implications. The UK is providing £4 million in humanitarian assistance in 2006 to Chad.
We are pressing both Governments to fulfil their obligations under the Tripoli agreement and for the Government of Sudan to disarm and expel these Chadian groups as soon as possible, which they are required to do under the Darfur peace agreement (DPA).
In terms of international co-operation, the UK has stated that it is willing to chair a group of donors to look at the restructuring of Sudan's external debt. This is, however, conditional on real progress by the Government of Sudan in resolving the Darfur conflict.