Protests were held across the states of Darfur, demanding the continuation of the joint United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
Hundreds of displaced people marched from local camps in Central Darfur to the UNAMID headquarters in Zalingei, calling on the international community to reconsider the end of the mission.
Protestors said that the withdrawal of UNAMID exacerbates the deterioration of the security situation and leads to rising levels of crime. They also pointed out that women face physical, sexual and verbal violence, and that they are in fear of being forced to return to their lands and villages.
The protestors demanded that the UNAMID mission remains in Darfur until security is guaranteed, those indicted have been handed over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), groups and militias have been disarmed, new settlers have been removed, international humanitarian organisations expelled by the former regime have returned, and peace has been reached through a dialogue that incorporates all the different groups in Sudan.
In Kass, South Darfur, Murnei, West Darfur and Kabkabiya, North Darfur, internally displaced people protested as well. They chanted slogans stressing that UNAMID is necessary to protect the displaced and provide security.
In Khartoum, hundreds of vehicles drove out to the headquarters of the Council of Ministers, the Ministry of Justice and the European Union mission in solidarity with the displaced. The protestors demanded that UNAMID remain. In Port Sudan a procession took place as well.
The wali (governor) of West Darfur, Mohamed El Doma, said that the Vice President of the Sovereign Council, Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan 'Hemeti' is set to increase the number of joint forces to protect civilians in Darfur to 18,000 instead of the 12,000 planned earlier. At a press conference in Khartoum yesterday, the governor said that UNAMID was providing services to both the displaced and non-displaced people of Darfur. He said the peacekeeping mission is documenting human rights violations and writing reports. He called on other states and the Sudanese government to put measures in place so that joint forces are formed to protect civilians.
Displaced people in South Darfur have protested against the UNAMID withdrawal for weeks.
Families fled several villages in El Sareif Beni Hussein locality, North Darfur. They went to the former UNAMID headquarters in El Sareif. This was the result of last week’s killing of two shepherds and the destruction of agricultural crops.
A witness from the area told Radio Dabanga that the families have been displaced from the villages Kino North, Tatar, Khadira and El Gatat. They had to leave behind their crops and food stocks. He emphasised that the regular forces have only three vehicles to secure the entire locality. He called on international humanitarian organisations to take care of the newly displaced people.
On July 31, 2007, more than four years after the civil war erupted in Darfur, the hybrid peacekeeping mission was established, with the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1769. The mission was tasked with protecting civilians in the region, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, mediate between the Sudanese government and rebel movements, and provide support to community conflict mediation, in conjunction with UN country team.
Though the mission has been criticised more than once for not being able to fulfil its mandate, in particular the displaced in the many camps in the region, want UNAMID to stay, because of the continuing insecurity.
In May this year, a group of Sudanese civil society activists urged Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok in a petition to add ‘physical protection’ to his request for a new UN mission to be deployed in the country.
Amnesty International urged the UN Security Council earlier this month to extend its mandate of the joint peacekeeping mission in Darfur by at least six months “in light of failure by government security forces to protect civilians in recent months”.
Minni Minawi, head of the split-off Sudan Liberation Movement faction SLM-MM and signatory to the Juba Peace Agreement, said at a press conference in Khartoum last week that he is opposed to the withdrawal of the UNAMID peacekeeping mission.
On the occasion of the approaching exit, UNAMID Joint Special Representative Jeremiah Mamabolo said in an interview by the UN press department. “Darfur is just beginning to change. The transitional government is just taking over now. [..] I say to the people in Darfur: Hang in there. The beginning is done. There is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.