The United Nations Security Council formally decided on Tuesday to end the joint UN-AU Mission in Darfur (Unamid) on December 31. UNAMID Joint Special Representative Jeremiah Mamabolo gave an interview to the UN press department. Some quotes.
The major challenge UNAMID had to deal with, was the former Al Bashir regime, UNAMID head Mamabolo reckons. “We had to deal with a government that was not acceptable to the [Sudanese] people. It was an oppressive regime, that was not prepared to give any ground. Sometimes the Al Bashir government would not allow us to dispense relief because it saw [certain parts of the country] as enemy territory.”
Another major challenge was the displaced people. “At a certain point we had 2 million of them, now 1.8 million. Every time conflict erupts, there are more.”
Fighting is not over yet in Darfur, Mamabolo acknowledges. “The Sudan Liberation Movement under the leadership of Abdelwahid El Nur is still fighting in parts of Darfur. Factions are fighting. Intercommunal conflicts have not been resolved yet. But the [Sudanese] government is new, it fights for the people, and represents the people, and is acceptable to the people.
Demonstrations against UNAMID withdrawal
Displaced people in Darfur hold demonstrations against the UNAMID withdrawal. Mamabolo: “We have been in Darfur for many years now. We have really become part of the struggle [to improve the situation] in Darfur. The people are grateful for the protection and the patrols we did. But we also provided trainings. We interacted with them. I understand they are insecure about the idea of UNAMID leaving. However, having said all that, the government of the day now says: we are capable of taking care of the protection of civilians. Whether it is now or whether it is in six months or whatever: It must be the responsibility of the government of Sudan. We have to look at the facts. Sudan is not a failed state. There is a very strong military, and a strong police force. Those tools were misused in the past. They were in the wrong hands. Now they are in the right hands.”
The new government played an important role in reaching the Juba Peace Agreement, Mamabolo thinks. “The peace negotiations took a long time [in the Al Bashir era]. Now, with the new government, those who were fighting [the armed rebel movements] realised that we are all brothers and sisters and that it should be easy to find solutions.”
The United Nations is not exiting Sudan, Mamabolo stressed. “The Sudanese government asked us to change the Chapter VII peacekeeping mission [which is allowed to use force to protect civilians]. The peace agreement has now been signed, so this is quite rightly. But the United Nations will be there to assist Sudan, in whatever way possible, with peacebuilding and hopefully development. As soon as UNAMID leaves, the new UNITAMS mission will take over.”
Most impressive memory
Looking back, the most impressive memory Mamabolo has concerns visits to the camps for the displaced in Darfur. “Every time we went there, a woman would stand up and say: We are being raped when we collect wood outside the camp. I then asked: Why don’t you let your husband collect wood? The women would answer: We rather go, because our husbands don’t come back in those cases. That is how bad the situation was. It gives me some joy to see that that situation is, in a way, coming to an end.”
The situation in Darfur improved, but not enough, Mamabolo feels. “Darfur is just beginning to change. The transitional government is just taking over now. It would be ridiculous to expect that it would have made any [real] changes. I am from South Africa. During our transition there were more killings than before that. Transitional arrangements are always messy. We are not sure where we are going. We do not trust each other completely. I say to the people in Darfur: Hang in there. The beginning is done. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Radio Dabanga’s editorial independence means that we can continue to provide factual updates about political developments to Sudanese and international actors, educate people about how to avoid outbreaks of infectious diseases, and provide a window to the world for those in all corners of Sudan. Support Radio Dabanga for as little as €2.50, the equivalent of a cup of coffee.