The UN Security Council should seriously reconsider its plans to further downsize the UN-AU peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (Unamid), say three Darfuri armed movements.
The Sudan Liberation Movement under the leadership of Minni Minawi (SLM-MM), the Sudan Liberation Movement-Transitional Council (SLM-TC), and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), sent a letter to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Thursday, saying that the security situation in the Sudan’s conflict-torn western region remains fragile, and requires an extended presence of the peacekeepers instead of further reductions.
“As the process of [Unamid’s] withdrawal continues, the situation has been deteriorating because of the ongoing violence in many areas in Darfur, which led to the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians,” the statement reads. “Further downsizing of Unamid would be a grave mistake.”
On Friday, the UNSC unanimously extended the mandate of Unamid for two weeks.
The council was forced to extend the mandate for such a short time because of technicalities. The former mandate term ended on June 30, while the second phase of redeployment is supposed to begin this month.
In its resolution on Darfur, the UNSC said the situation in Sudan continues to pose a threat to international peace and security, and urged Unamid to continue to deter any threats to itself or its mandate.
Exit of Unamid
The hybrid mission was deployed in Darfur in December 2007, with a mandate to protect the people of Darfur against hostilities. It has been the world’s second largest international peacekeeping force, after the force in Congo, with an annual budget of $1.35 billion and almost 20,000 troops.
On June 29 last year, the UNSC renewed Unamid’s mandate for another year. Yet the nearly 19,000 Unamid military troops and police officers would be reduced with more a third. A number of team sites would be handed to the Sudanese authorities.
In September last year, rebel movements protested the alleged handing of two North Darfur bases to the Rapid Support Forces, the country’s main militia.
With the handing of the Zamzam team site in North Darfur to the Sudanese authorities on October 21, Unamid completed the first phase of the reduction.
Darfur displaced, Sudanese politicians, and international activists have all warned for the consequences of a downsizing of the number of peacekeepers for the people in Darfur. According to the Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG), the UN and AU decision was based on “a flawed analysis of the current security and political situation in Darfur”.
Amnesty International recently warned for the consequences of further downsizing of Unamid. In a statement on June 29, the human rights watchdog called for a stronger mandate for the peacekeeping mission to protect civilians in Darfur, pointing to multiple attacks on displaced people in the region since the decision to reconfigurate Unamid last year.
The AU Peace and Security Council decided in June to extend the Unamid mandate for another year. While welcoming the AU proposal that Unamid would exit on 30 June 2020 and its liquidation be completed by December 2020, the Council noted that a gradual drawdown would allow the Mission’s exit to be guided by the political and security situation on the ground so as not to create a security vacuum. Also the area of operation for Unamid should be retained as the whole geographic region given the fact that the Mission retains the responsibility to protect civilians under threat in the entire region of Darfur.