The UN Security Council on Tuesday strongly condemned a rebel attack near Khartoum, warning against any retaliation and urging Sudan and Chad to implement a recent peace deal to suppress armed groups operating along their border.
A statement approved by the 15 council members and read at a formal meeting stressed “the urgent need for all parties to engage fully and constructively in the political process.”
Most Sudanese were shocked by the assault on the capital over the weekend by rebels from the Justice and Equality Movement, which is based in conflict-wracked Darfur, hundreds of kilometers to the west.
Sudanese Defense Minister General Abdul Rahim Mohammed Hussein told parliament on Tuesday that more than 200 people were killed in the fighting in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman and at least two-thirds of the 180 vehicles involved in the assault were destroyed, the official SUNA news agency reported.
The rebels admitted defeat but promised further attacks on the capital unless the festering situation in Darfur is resolved. The UN says 2.5 million people have been forced from their homes and the death toll from the more than five-year conflict could be 300,000.
The council urged “restraint by all parties, and in particular warns that no retaliatory action should be taken against civilian populations.”
Council members called on Sudan and Chad to implement their commitments under a peace deal signed in Dakar, Senegal, on March 13 by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Chadians President Idriss Deby.
The agreement calls for both countries to rein in armed groups operating along their shared border, where both governments have claimed rebels are backed by the other. It commits the two nations to implement past accords that have so far failed to help end violence in the area.
The agreement also called for a monitoring group of foreign ministers from each country to meet monthly to be sure there are no violations, but that appears highly unlikely since Sudan broke diplomatic relations with Chad after the weekend attack.
Sudan’s UN Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad said “it’s very important” that the statement calls for full implementation of the Dakar agreement and other agreements “and to stop supporting the armed militia groups.”
“We are very happy with the presidential statement,” he said.
“It’s a very clear and strong condemnation of the aggression on Khartoum on May 10 in which the Security Council reiterated the need to adhere to the peaceful political process and the need to move ahead in activating the political and negotiating track,” he said.
British Ambassador to the UN John Sawers, the current council president, said that the statement “demonstrates the council’s even-handedness in Sudan.”
“We are ready to speak out against any group that pursues its goals by violent means,” he said.
Sawers called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a full-time mediator to try to move political negotiations forward and unite the dispirate rebel groups, calling the political process crucial to resolving the problems in Darfur.
The council was scheduled yesterday to discuss the deployment of the joint UN-African Union force which took over peacekeeping duties in Darfur in January from a beleaguered AU force. It only has about 7,500 troops and fewer than 2,000 police on the ground, out of a total of 26,000 that have been authorized.