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3 Darfur groups demand UN investigation on report

April 24, 2014

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Three main rebel groups operating in Sudan’s chaotic western region of Darfur are demanding that the United Nations investigate a former spokeswoman’s claims about “lies, omissions, half-truths” in U.N. reporting about the long-running conflict.

A letter to the president of the U.N. Security Council points out the allegations raised by Aicha Elbasri in an article this month for Foreign Policy magazine.

Elbasri says she left her position as spokeswoman for the African Union-U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur in 2013 after being frustrated by the mission’s “flawed reporting” on the extent of the violence. She says her efforts to get the U.N. to investigate were ignored.

“We stand by the record of what the mission has done,” the deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Farhan Haq, told reporters.

The letter, dated April 17 but released to reporters Thursday, comes from the Justice and Equality Movement and two arms of the Sudan Liberation Army.

The letter’s release was timed to a Security Council meeting that discussed the latest situation in Darfur, where U.N peacekeeping chief Herve Ladous said violence has risen again after a period of “relative calm.”

Darfur has been chaotic since 2003, when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. Sudan’s government has launched a national dialogue for peaceful solutions to the fighting.

The U.N. humanitarian agency estimates that more than two million people are displaced by the years-long conflict, with more than 370,000 displaced since January alone. More than 260,000 of them still haven’t been able to return home, Ladsous said.

The humanitarian crisis in Darfur remains one of the world’s worst, he told the council.

The 19,000-strong peacekeeping force in Darfur has the second-highest budget of all U.N. peacekeeping forces, at more than $1.3 billion a year, but it has been criticized for underperformance. The Security Council this month approved a resolution aimed at improving the mission.

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