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Public demos against Unamid exit from Darfur amid security concerns

January 2 - 2021 ZALINGEI / EL FASHER (UPDATED JAN 3 12:00)
On December 31, protestors hold up banners which demand the extension of UNAMID in Darfur (Social media)
On December 31, protestors hold up banners which demand the extension of UNAMID in Darfur (Social media)

Peaceful demonstrations were held at the site of the joint United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in Zalingei, Central Darfur at the start of this week as members of the public voiced their concern about security in the area.

Members of the joint security force consisting of Sudanese police, Sudan Armed Forces, and Rapid Support Forces that has been established to maintain security in the region took-up positions around the Zalingei site to secure it.

El Shafee Abdallah, coordinator of the camps for the displaced in Central Darfur, alleged to Radio Dabanga that the objective of taking over the site “by militias” was “to plunder the buildings”, however UNAMID spokesperson Ashraf Eissa denies this, explaining that the forces that began to occupy the site were doing so legitimately in response to the implementation of UN Security Council resolution No. 2559 that stipulates that the mission of UNAMID ended on December 31.

Eissa told Radio Dabanga that while there have indeed been peaceful demonstrations across Darfur voicing public concern for UNAMID’s departure, there was no looting at UNAMID sits. “Some demonstrators gathered at the Zalingei HQ, and members of the joint security force of police, army, and RSF formed a cordon around the Zalingei site. The Wali (governor) of Central Darfur arrived to address them and ask them to disperse."

Displaced leader El Shafee Abdallah questioned the ability of the regular forces to provide protection to the residents of Zalingei as well as those in the surrounding villages and camps for the displaced. Earlier this month, Radio Dabanga reported that Amnesty International is concerned about the UNAMID exit given the national security forces’ “failure to step up” and protect civilians from attacks in recent month s.

"UNAMID serves as the only protection for the displaced" - South Darfur residents

Demonstrations and sit-ins continued in camps in Darfur and solidarity protests took place in North Kordofan, North Darfur, South Darfur, El Gezira, and River Nile states to demand the extension of the UNAMID mission on Thursday.

A solidarity protest rejecting the exit of the UNAMID mission from South Darfur set off towards the General Secretariat of the government, where they handed over a memorandum addressed to Sudan;'s prime minister. The memorandum stated that "UNAMID serves as the only protection for the displaced”.

The Undersecretary of Sudan’s Government Chamber, Hasan Nasrallah, visiting El Fasher in North Darfur, received a memorandum on Wednesday from residents of Anka, Amarei, and Baashim in Kutum over the poor security situation in the region. The Secretary General of North Darfur, El Hafiz Bakheet, received a similar memorandum from displaced persons, demanding that officials address the security situation.

Protest against UNAMID exit takes place in El Fasher
after residents hand in memorandum (Social media)

 

Regional insecurity

On New Year’s Day a displaced person was killed, and four others wounded, including two children, in four separate incidents in South Darfur.

In the first incident Abdallah Abdelkarim was stabbed to death while trying to rob someone’s mobile phone in the town of Nierteti. In another incident in the area of Turr in Nierteti, the paramilitary Central Reserve Police (Abu Teira) opened fire on a house, leaving two children wounded.  

Witnesses said that an armed robbery, also in the Turr area, resulted in the injury of Abdelhafiz Haroun, who was later transferred to Nyala for treatment. In a fourth incident, Muhieldin Ahmed was injured during a robbery in which the gunmen took his phone and SDG 1,500. Ahmed was later transferred to a clinic.

The wali (governor) of East Darfur, Mohamed Aliyu, expressed “regret” over the events that took place in South Darfur. He said that his government are seeking to close the borders to prevent the spread of insecurity into his state.

He said that all security and military agencies are working “harmoniously as a joint force” to close the state’s borders in order to prevent criminal activity. The governor also emphasized the need to pay attention to, and benefit from, the energies of youth.

Medical facilities looted

On Friday, in Central Darfur, a number of workers at Zalingei Hospital were injured by an armed group who also burnt a pharmacy and looted more than 10 shops. The incident took place following a quarrel between a member of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and a policeman affiliated with the hospital guards.

El Shafee Abdallah told Radio Dabanga that the RSF member tried to “use his influence”. The police intervened and took the RSF member down to the police station.

Following this incident, armed groups in vehicles arrived from the El Hasaheisa neighbourhood of the town. They attacked nurses from the hospital, set fire to the pharmacy, and looted other surrounding buildings.

Abdallah said that the incident took place in front of Sudan’s regular armed forces, but they did not intervene or try and stop the perpetrators.

UNAMID exit

The planned exit of the UNAMID mission has stirred up many protests throughout the country as many fear that, with the mission leaving, security will decrease and violence and crime rates will go up.

Thousands of displaced people from Kalma camp in South Darfur delivered a memorandum to UNAMID to demand a reversal of the decision to end the mission earlier this week. They staged a week-long sit-in in front of the UNAMID office in the camp.

Leaders in the camp have warned against any armed forces entering the camps and called on the UN Security Council to form a committee to determine the current situation and extent of crime and violence in Darfur, before starting the withdrawal of the UNAMID mission. 

UNAMID confirmed its intention to, as of yesterday January 1, gradually reduce the mission's activity in a secure way and prepare its exit as planned over the next six months. 

This withdrawal is in accordance with the UN Security Council's resolution No. 2559 that stipulates the UNAMID exit today, December 31. 

The UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission (UNITAMS) and the UN team in Sudan will continue to support the Sudanese government in mediating tribal conflicts and addressing other security, political, and economic challenges.

UPDATED January 6 to reflect clarification comments by UNAMID spokesman Ashraf Eissa.


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