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‘What peace was Unamid supposed to keep in Darfur?'

September 15 - 2014 LONDON

Unamid, described as "the largest peacekeeping mission in the world”, will have to answer for its failing to protect the hundreds of thousands of displaced in Darfur. According to UK newspaper The Independent, the details of the investigation are due to be made public in the coming weeks.

In leaked reports, published by Radio Dabanga in April this year, former Unamid spokeswoman Aicha Elbasri gave accounts of several alleged transgressions, where the joint mission failed in its primary mandate to protect civilians and humanitarian workers.

Elbasri disclosed that the 20,000-strong joint AU-UN peacekeeping force had misinformed the UN by withholding important details about Darfur. The peacekeeping mission “observes government forces indiscriminately bombing entire villages, targeting civilian and military targets alike. However these observations are never publically reported in the regular updates by the UN Secretary General to the UN Security Council,” she stated.

Moreover, the UN “did not tell the world that the Sudanese government failed to disarm the Janjaweed militias; that it, conversely, reintegrated them into paramilitary forces under new names, and let them continue committing their widespread, systematic attacks directed against the civilian population in Darfur. In order to satisfy the Sudanese government, the word Janjaweed did not appear in more than 30 reports by the Secretary-General except once, and that was in 2008.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the UN Security Council in August to direct Unamid to improve human rights monitoring and public reporting. “Accurate and timely reporting by the AU-UN mission is critical for protecting vulnerable civilians.”

“Accounts of both Janjaweed militia and government forces targeting the innocent, many published by the website Radio Dabanga, make for harrowing testimony,” The Independent noted in an article on the subject today.


In June, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, requested the UN to investigate the alleged covering up of crimes in Darfur by Unamid, calling for “a thorough, independent and public enquiry”. 

A UN press release on 3 July said that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had instructed the Secretariat to “review the reports of all investigations and inquiries undertaken since mid-2012, to ensure that their recommendations have been implemented, and enable him to determine what action needs to be taken”. In August, the head of Unamid, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, announced that an UN investigation team would arrive in Darfur soon.

According to The Independent, Ibn Chambas has already left Unamid.

“On Friday, the Secretary General announced that the Ghanaian national, who has overseen Unamid since December 2012, has been appointed as the special representative and head of the UN office for West Africa. No mention was made of the ongoing investigation in the announcement [..]” the newspaper stated.

Based on false premises

The joint AU-UN peacekeeping force in Darfur, established in 2008, is widely viewed as flawed. It is suffering from a lack of cooperation from the Sudanese government, and troops ill-equipped to protect thousands of civilians, or themselves. Attacks have killed at least 58 peacekeepers.

HRW described the mission in its August report as being “largely ineffectual in protecting civilians from violence”.

In addition, although Unamid “has described these attacks and other patterns of insecurity in its periodic reports to the UN Secretary-General, it has not reported detailed findings, including civilian death tolls, estimates of property destruction, and alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law”. “The mission has not issued a stand-alone public human rights report in five years.”

Tess Finch-Lees, a human rights specialist and Sudan campaigner, told The Independent that “Unamid was arguably doomed to fail. It is based on a false premise, one that assumes there is a peace to keep. Peace not only eludes Darfuris, its utterance taunts them.”

“The people in camps, who are lying doubled up from starvation-induced abdominal spasms, know that there are no deals to be made with the devil.”

“Peace cannot be brokered as long as the UN allows Sudanese forces to drop bombs on civilians. At what point and at what human cost will the UN stop the crippling charade of appeasement and complicity? If Ban Ki-moon is serious about his pledge to put ‘Rights up Front’ in the UN’s work, why is Darfur languishing at the back of the queue?”

Last month, the Unamid mandate was extended until 30 June 2015.

(Source: The Independent, Radio Dabanga)

File photo: A Unamid peacekeeper from Tanzania in a military exercise in a camp for the displaced near the Mission's compound in Khor Abeche, South Darfur, 30 June 2014 (Albert González Farran/ Unamid) 


Darfur Bar questions UN investigation team's integrity (18 August 2014)

'Investigation team in Darfur within weeks’: Unamid head (12 August 2014)

UN to probe Darfur peace mission (3 July 2014)

ICC demands investigation of Unamid in Darfur (18 June)

Sudan Leaks: UN admits Darfur reports slanted to please Sudan (8 April 2014)

Dossier: Sudan Leaks


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