Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Saturday, 25 July 2009 17:09 UK

Darfuris 'face election hurdles'

Head of UN Peacekeeping Alain Le Roy
The UN's peacekeeping chief says millions of Darfuris may not get to vote

People in the Darfur region of Sudan could be left out of next year's election, according to the head of the United Nations peacekeeping force.

Alain Le Roy said millions might not get to vote because of a dispute over a new census and large scale displacement of people caused by the conflict.

Mr Le Roy said this would disenfranchise people already disempowered by the fighting.

But he also said the security situation in Darfur had improved substantially.

Speaking at the United Nations Security Council, Mr Le Roy said that large-scale violence and civilian deaths and displacement associated with attacks were "no longer hallmarks of the crisis".

'Enormous risks'

Last month Sudan said its nationwide elections would be delayed for two months until April 2010, the second time the date has changed.

They were postponed after former rebels in the south disputed new census results.

The poll in Africa's biggest country will be the first in more than two decades.

It was agreed under a 2005 peace deal - the Comprehensive Peace Agreement -that ended more than two decades of civil war between north and south Sudan.

Mr Le Roy said: "The contested census, large-scale displacement and volatility - particularly in the area bordering Chad - create enormous risks that the people of Darfur will not be in a position to participate in the electoral process. "

He said the Sudanese election results would have an "enormous impact" on the distribution of political power in Darfur where millions of displaced refugees who fled the fighting live in camps.

The US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council that the possibility that Darfuris would be left out of the electoral process was a real concern.

A convoy of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) crosses through a mud track in the southern village of Kashalongo, South of the city of Nyala, in southern Darfur on June 18, 2009.
The UN says the security situation in Darfur has improved substantially

The fighting in Darfur in western Sudan dates back to 2003, when mostly non Arab rebels took up arms against Khartoum, accusing it of neglecting the region.

The government deployed troops and mostly Arab militias to crush the uprising.

The UN says the conflict has claimed 300,000 lives. Khartoum disputes the figure, saying only 10,000 people have lost their lives.

Mr Le Roy said that the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force was now in the final phase of its deployment and would have most of its 26,000 troops in place by the end of the year.

He said the troops would soon be able to provide a sustained presence around the camps set up for the two million people displaced, providing a much greater degree of security for them.

But BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says that at a political level there is little movement.

Talks in Doha with one of the main rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement or JEM, appear to have ground to a halt.

The rebels earlier this month released 60 government troops and police, but there has so far been no reciprocal gesture from the Khartoum government.

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