Gunmen ambush AU monitors in South Darfur

Unidentified gunmen wounded two African Union (AU) monitors on Tuesday near the town of Niteaga, northwest of Nyala, the capital of the western Sudanese state of South Darfur, an AU spokesman told IRIN.

The monitors’ sector team leader, an officer from Mali, was shot in the neck during the ambush, said Nourreddine Mezni, spokesman for the AU in Khartoum.

"His surgery was successful and he is now recovering in a hospital in Khartoum," said Mezni on Wednesday. "The other monitor, an Egyptian captain, was only lightly injured and has been released from the hospital."

"It is a regrettable incident, but we are aware of the risks of our mission, and we will continue to monitor the ceasefire and protect the people of Darfur," he added.

Meanwhile the UN Security Council decided on Tuesday to freeze assets and impose a travel ban on those believed to have committed human-rights abuses, or violated the ceasefire agreement, in Darfur, UN News reported.

Tuesday’s resolution also extended the current ban on the sale or supply of military equipment to non-governmental entities or individuals involved in the Darfur conflict to include the Sudanese government.

It further demanded that the government immediately cease conducting offensive military flights in the region.

The Council strongly condemned "all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the Darfur region, in particular the continuation of violence against civilians and sexual violence against women and girls," and urged "all parties to take necessary steps to prevent further violations."

However, the Sudanese representative to the UN, Elfatih Mohamed Ahmed Erwa, said the Council had adopted an "unwise resolution" that might aggravate the situation in Darfur.

A committee, consisting of representatives of all Council members, was established to specify which individuals would be subject to the restrictive measures, and to monitor their implementation.

In addition, the resolution requested UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to appoint a four-member panel of experts based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to assist the committee for six months.

Once again, the Council condemned the failure of the Sudanese government to disarm Janjawid militias and bring to justice their leaders and associates who had carried out human-rights violations and other atrocities.

Unless the Council determines that the parties in the conflict have complied with certain demands and commitments, the measures set out in the text will be enforced 30 days from the adoption date.

These commitments were set out in previous Council resolutions in 2004: the April N'djamena Ceasefire Agreement and the November Abuja Humanitarian and Security Protocols, signed by the Sudanese government and the two main rebel groups - the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), and the Justice and Equality Movement.

The Council emphasised that there could be no military solution to the conflict in Darfur, and urged the government and the rebels to resume the Abuja talks without preconditions, and to negotiate in good faith to reach an agreement quickly.

On 24 March, the Council unanimously agreed to send 10,000 troops, and up to 715 civilian police, to southern Sudan. Their purpose, for an initial period of six months, was to support the peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the SPLM/A, which ended more than two decades of civil strife in the south.

However, Council members remained deadlocked over Darfur, in particular over where to try perpetrators of atrocities. France proposed a resolution, supported by European nations, to send war-crimes suspects to the International Criminal Court. A vote is expected on Wednesday.

According to relief agencies, over 2.4 million people have been affected by the conflict in Darfur between Sudanese government troops - and militias allegedly allied to the government - and rebels fighting to end what they have called the marginalisation and discrimination of the region's inhabitants by the state. Almost 80 percent of those affected have either been internally displaced or forced to flee to neighbouring Chad.