Hello, you are France’s representative to this delegation at the Security Council, a mission to visit Africa, focusing in particular on the Sudanese issue. You have made several visits: Kampala, Juba, El Fasher, and you are now in Khartoum. Today, what is your initial assessment of the various exchanges you have had on the ground?
This visit falls within the framework of the follow-up to the high-level meeting that took place on 24 September in New York, at the initiative of the Secretary-General, and which signaled the extreme importance the United Nations, the community of Nations, attaches to Sudan and to the two main problems it is facing today: the future of Southern Sudan, and Darfur.
The goal of this mission by the Security Council was to see what was happening on the ground and to lend our support, our encouragement to the local authorities and the parties concerned in order to make progress towards peace and stability, as well as to the stakeholders of the United Nations, UNMIS, UNAMID and also the NGOs and all of the international actors.
It may be too soon to give a detailed assessment of the visit, but I can say that it was very informative. Up until now we have been able to meet all the people we wanted to. It’s not over since tomorrow we have an extended meeting with the representatives of the Sudanese government. In Southern Sudan we were able to evaluate the situation with respect to the preparations for the referendum on self-determination in Southern Sudan, scheduled, we hope, to take place on 9 January. The visit to Darfur allowed us to evaluate the security situation and the humanitarian situation which remain dire but also to talk about the Doha political process and about the support we all have for it. Lastly, we were able to observe UN action on the ground.
Regarding the visit to Juba, regarding Southern Sudan, does the deadline of 9 January seem feasible, can it be met?
We are not fortune-tellers… it’s therefore difficult to say. What we see on the ground is a strong determination by the local authorities to hold these referendums on 9 January and to implement the means to achieve this. We met those responsible for the electoral process who are aware of the very tight deadline and who want to do everything to achieve it. History will tell us if it will be 9 January or not. In any event, the people on the ground have very high expectations, and this is reflected by a sense of determination and by actions. They are not waiting passively.
The international community, represented by the Security Council must highlight the importance of maintaining this date and of making full use of the three remaining months to prepare for the referendums. It’s not just a matter of the referendums, there is everything that will follow, with quite complex issues, all the post-referendum issues, whatever the people of Southern Sudan choose, and there again, there is a lot of work.
Darfur is also being discussed, with the visit to El Fasher, a more recent visit; press agencies are reporting that there was a lively welcome by the populations there and also that the visit took place in a context of violence once again, including violence against the humanitarian personnel since yesterday another UN staff member was kidnapped. What is the situation today in Darfur as far as you have been able to observe and what are the prospects?
Given that we only spent one day in Darfur we do not have a very detailed perspective or extensive geographical understanding of the problems, but the reports we have received, the discussions that we have been able to have indicate that the situation remains dire. The press has reported new problems over the last few days. There was the kidnapping yesterday evening which shows the difficulty of the mission of the UN personnel on the ground. The security situation remains difficult; the same is true for the humanitarian situation - the United Nations and the NGOs have difficulty accessing the populations we aim to protect.
Regarding the demonstrations, there were indeed demonstrators when we arrived in El Fasher, as there were when we arrived in Juba as well, with different motives. This did not disrupt the progress of the Security Council’s mission.
Regarding the last stop, the meeting with the authorities in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, we know that the mission will not meet President al-Bashir since he has been indicted - that’s the reason that has been given - by the International Criminal Court, or in any event the prosecutor. Will you still meet with government representatives or are these just "minor figures"?
Meetings with very senior Sudanese leaders are planned, in particular with the Foreign Minister.
In general, even if it’s a bit early to assess the situation, what is your general impression regarding this visit to Africa, and in particular to Sudan, and how will you share your assessment in your own way within this Security Council group?
Given the problems that remain with respect to the Southern Sudan issue, with the preparations for the referendums and the post-referendum issues, as well as with regard to Darfur in view of the humanitarian and security situation there, the international community must truly remain very involved in the coming months: that is incidentally why the Security Council went there. It’s also why we believe that both UNMIS in Southern Sudan and UNAMID in Darfur have an extremely important role to play in the short-term, with respect to the referendum in Southern Sudan on 9 January and the security situation in Darfur, as well as in the long-term since the challenges in terms of stability in these two regions are enormous.
Put simply, the wholehearted commitment of the international community in the months to come regarding these two issues is vital.