Unamid’s West Darfur HQ looted on eve of handover
The Sector West headquarters of the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (Unamid) in El Geneina, capital of West Darfur, has been looted and vandalised by a crowd that allegedly included Sudanese police and men in military uniforms. The headquarters was due to be handed over to local authorities on Tuesday.
The peacekeeping force Unamid, mandated by the UN Security Council by its resolution 2429 (2018) is currently withdrawing from its Darfur facilities, and plans to exit Darfur entirely by June 2020.
In a statement today, Unamid reported that “an unruly crowd forcefully intruded into the super camp, where they looted UN property and contingent-owned-equipment, vandalized premises and put the lives of UN staff and personnel at grave risk.”
Unamid alleges that according it its reports, the crowd of looters included elements in police and military uniforms. Earlier in the day, the intruders had gathered in front of the main gate, blocked it and later in the evening forced their way into the camp, the statement says.
“Unamid condemns these acts in the strongest possible terms as they constitute a blatant violation of international norms governing the presence of UN peacekeepers across the world. The Mission also extremely regrets these actions, which are contrary to peaceful behaviour. It is particularly deplorable that Sudanese military and police personnel, who were called in to assist UN peacekeepers in securing the camp, allegedly joined in these acts of looting and vandalism.”
“We strongly condemn this incident and call on the relevant authorities to take every possible step to bring the uniformed personnel who were alleged to have been part of the looting to account,” said Jeremiah Kingsley Mamabolo, Unamid Joint Special Representative (JSR).
Unamid commends the quick action taken by the commander and troops of the Ethiopian battalion responsible for securing the camp, who avoided confrontation with the uniformed elements and gathered UN staff into one location and ensured their safety and security.
The Mission wishes to remind the government of Sudan and the local populations of their obligation to safeguard Unamid personnel and assets in accordance with the State of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Unamid is committed to protecting its staff and assets and reminds would-be perpetrators that it is mandated, under Chapter VII, to protect Unamid personnel and assets by all means available to it, including through the use of force.
The Mission has dispatched troop reinforcements from Zalingei Mission Headquarters and Saraf Omra Team Site to El Geneina to strengthen its protection arrangements ahead of the planned handover of the camp later today.
Until the reduction of its troops, Unamid was the largest peacekeeping mission worldwide, mandated to bring stability to the war-torn region of Darfur.
In December, Unamid Joint Special Representative Jeremiah Mamabolo 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.”
In January, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres reported that the recent security situation in Darfur was “relatively stable”.
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”. Human rights organisation Amnesty International recently warned for the consequences of further downsizing of Unamid.
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