I recently completed my third visit to Darfur in the past two months, with stops in El Fasher, Tukumare, Kutum, El Geneina, Gozmino, Tandousa, and Foro Baranga. The security and humanitarian situation in Darfur remains concerning, but I was encouraged that, in some areas, Darfuris have begun returning to their homes and working toward a return to normalcy.
In the coming months, the United States and international community must lead efforts to support peace, security, and development in Darfur. We continue to press the Sudanese government and UNAMID to ensure the security of civilians, and have urged the Government of Sudan to serve as a good host to the international aid workers and NGOs that serve as vital partners in working to end the conflict. While emergency assistance plays an important role in supporting the short-term needs of the Darfuri people, the international community must complement these efforts with long-term development initiatives to help enhance agricultural capacity, improve education, and increase access to health care. These are the things that Darfuri men and women stressed as their most important needs at each stop during my trip.
I was also pleased that senior leaders from the Sudanese Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) were able to join me on my trip. We discussed my concerns about NGO access throughout Darfur, and the need for the Sudanese government to permit full and unimpeded access to reach vulnerable populations. Their presence during my visit and meetings with local leaders and international NGO representatives in El Geneina and El Fasher was invaluable in conveying Khartoum's policies on UNAMID and NGO access to local authorities and creating the person-to-person contact needed to improve future coordination between Darfuri officials and Khartoum.
I sincerely hope that, in the coming months, the international community can take concrete steps to move the parties closer to full resolution of that conflict. Moving forward, security is the most important factor. People and aid organizations must have the space to work toward a more prosperous future without fear that they will be attacked or displaced. While I am encouraged that in some areas have improved, I remain deeply concerned by the on-going fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and rebel groups.
Attacks on innocent civilians are unacceptable and must cease immediately. Both the government and the rebels should commit to an immediate ceasefire to save lives and stop needless suffering. Rebels must transform from soldiers to statesmen and disarm their movements as they work toward a negotiated settlement. For the peace process to succeed, all parties -- the government, rebel groups, and civilians -- must work together to address the underlying causes of conflict. This will require justice and accountability to address the grievances of those whose lives were destroyed by violence committed by armed groups.
Even as we continue our important work on north-south issues, so too are we engaged on Darfur. We are working hard to ensure that the peace process that follows the Doha talks -- no matter the forum -- are open, inclusive, and involve the Darfuri population in the ongoing dialogue. We continue to press the rebels and the Sudanese government, both publicly and privately, to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem. And we have every intention of continuing these efforts in the foreseeable future as we strive to reach the President's objective of reaching a definitive end to conflict in Darfur.