UN Sudan humanitarian chief urges Darfur conflict solution

A picture released by UNAMID shows a general view of Zam Zam camp for internally displaced people, in North Darfur, on February 18, 2014, as they flee fighting between government and armed movements in the area of east Jebel Marra (AFP Photo/Hamid Abdulsalam)

Khartoum (AFP) - The acting United Nations humanitarian chief in Sudan urged the government and rebels in Darfur Friday to negotiate a political solution to the conflict, as troops press an offensive in the region.

Darfur has been mired in conflict since 2003 when mostly black insurgents rebelled against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government, complaining of their marginalisation.

"It is now nearly 11 years that this has been going on and we still don't see an end in sight," said Geert Cappelaere, the head of UNICEF in Sudan and the acting UN humanitarian coordinator in the country.

"The end to it is only a political one, it is stopping the fighting," he told AFP in an interview.

He was speaking the day after visiting the village of Tawila, some 70 kilometres (43 miles) west of the North Darfur state capital El Fasher.

In November, the government launched a fresh offensive in Darfur, as well as in the southern Blue Nile and South Kordofan areas.

Tens of thousands have been displaced by the fighting since the end of December, the United Nations says, some of whom have sought shelter in the vicinity of Tawila.

Cappelaere stressed the need to negotiate a settlement in the area because the United Nations has diverted resources elsewhere to focus on conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Central African Republic.

"You have an international community that is struggling to respond" to the conflict in the western Sudanese region, he said.

Since 2003 Darfur has been locked in a cycle of conflict, with government forces and rebels unable to gain a decisive military advantage.

Government representatives last met rebels in Addis Ababa in December, but no agreement was reached.

Cappelaere said some parties to the conflict still hoped to achieve a decisive military victory "but they have tried that for more than ten years and we still have no solution".

Since late December, aid organisations have registered 32,490 newly displaced people in Darfur, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Thursday.

The figure was lower than 41,304 reported by OCHA last month because aid organisations had been able to carry out more verification of internally displaced persons in the region.

Some 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and the region is home to more than two million internally displaced persons, the United Nations says.

Khartoum puts the death toll at around 10,000.

President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.