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Unamid exit: Mission completes handover of team sites to government

December 21 - 2018 KHARTOUM
Unamid team site in Buram was handed over to the Sudanese government in December 2018 (Unamid)
Unamid team site in Buram was handed over to the Sudanese government in December 2018 (Unamid)

The African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (Unamid) concluded the closure and handover of ten team sites to the Government of Sudan, with Gireida team site in South Darfur being the last to be handed over before the mission's exit from the region.

The sites, which were handed over between October and December 2018, include El Sireif, Um Baru and Korma in North Darfur; Labado and Sheiria in East Darfur; Mukhjar in Central Darfur; Masteri and Murnei in West Darfur; as well as Buram and Gireida in South Darfur.

As with previously closed and handed over team sites, the Mission urges the Government of Sudan “to fulfil its commitment to use these facilities for non-military civilian purposes that benefit communities”, in a press statement released yesterday. Both Unamid and the government have signed hand-over documents including these stipulations.

The handovers are in line with the renewed mandate of Unamid, supporting the stabilisation and development of Darfur, and are said to be in accordance with similar UN practices in other post-conflict areas in the world.

“Unamid is committed to supporting the Government of Sudan to improve the lives of the people of Darfur. To this end, these facilities should be used to contribute towards institutions such as universities, hospitals and schools, that meet critical needs of health and education, while benefiting large parts of communities,” said Unamid Joint Special Representative (JSR), Jeremiah Mamabolo, in the statement.

The rural court in Nierteti, handed over by Unamid (RD)

In addition, Unamid handed rural court buildings in Darfur, such as the rural court in Nierteti, over to the Sudanese judiciary. The mission will be headquartered in Zalingei as the quarters in Ed Daein, El Geneina and Nyala are planned to be closed by 30 June 2019,

Personnel reduction

Mamobola had briefed the press earlier this month that the peacekeeping operations in the Jebel Marra area have been reconfigured, its military component in particular. It will reduce the force by 3,265 uniformed personnel by 31 December and by another 1,420 by the end of June 2019, to remain with a strength of 4,050 military personnel by end of June 2019, he said.

The special representative pointed out that the region has seen improved security but still witnesses fresh waves of displacement. “With a significant emphasis in Jebel Mara where intermittent hostilities between non-state armed groups and regular forces continue to directly affect civilians in the area.”

Prevention of setbacks

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. 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.

Sudan's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Osama Feisal told the national parliament in November that necessary measures were taken in coordination between the states of Darfur and the centre by increasing the deployment of police, the prosecutions and the rule of law to prevent setbacks.

Mandated since 2007

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.

The Sudanese authorities began to push for the exit of Unamid in end 2014, after the peacekeeping mission urged an investigation into a mass rape in North Darfur's Tabit on October 31 that year.

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. Under the new United Nations Security Council Resolution 2429 of July 2018, the Mission retains the responsibility to protect civilians under threat in the entire region of Darfur.

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