Panafrican News Agency

Rights group urges UN Security Council to extend mandate of peacekeeping force in Darfur

Johannesburg, South Africa (PANA) -  With weeks left to the end of the mandate of the peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), human rights group Amnesty International on Wednesday urged the UN Security Council to extend it by at least six months in light of failure by government security forces to protect civilians in recent months.

It said in a statement that more than 70 people, including farmers and the internally displaced people (IDPs), were killed by members of armed groups between July and September 2020 in Masterei, in West Darfur state, in Nertiti, Central Darfur state, and in Fata Borno, North Darfur state, areas that are under the control of Sudanese security forces. 

The human rights watchdog said at least another 78 people were injured in armed attacks in this period, while looting and burning of houses, markets and shops was commonplace as thousands of people were displaced in Darfur.

Also, from July to September 2020, according to the International Organization for Migration, more than 8,000 displaced was caused by the conflict between factions of the Sudan Liberation Army – Abdel Wahid (SLA-AW) in Central Darfur.

“With UNAMID’s mandate due to end at the close of the year, and UNITAMS (United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan) which is meant to replace it still not yet staffed or operationalised, Amnesty International is concerned for future civilian protection in Darfur, particularly given the national security forces’ failure to step up and protect civilians from attacks in recent months. We fear a security vacuum may arise with disastrous consequences for the people of Darfur,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

“The UN Security Council should extend UNAMID’s mandate for at least six to ensure the peacekeepers do not leave before UNITAMS is fully operational, and to enable proper training of national forces to take over the massive responsibility of civilian protection. Otherwise, there will be a security vacuum, with disastrous consequences for the people of Darfur.”

Muchema said the Sudanese government must ensure that the Darfur people are not abandoned.

It must also ensure national forces are adequately equipped and trained to respect, protect and fulfil human rights.

"Members of the security forces suspected of crimes under international law must be excluded from the proposed joint forces,” said Muchena.

“The government must also ensure its forces and their allied armed groups are held accountable for any violations under international human rights laws, and international humanitarian law.”

Muchema said Amnesty International was deeply concerned about the preparedness of the Sudanese forces to take on the sensitive responsibility of civilian protection because they had so far failed to demonstrate willingness and readiness to respond to community pleas for help before and during attacks.

He said the UN and AU must ensure that the Darfur people are not abandoned in a hasty UNAMID withdraw.  

“Peacekeepers in Darfur may have a mixed record of protecting civilians as on many occasions they have failed to prevent attacks on villages, but they have often been able to protect civilians fleeing violence who manage to get themselves to areas near UNAMID bases and UNAMID-protected camps. This physical protection is still urgently needed around Jebel Marra and in other parts of Darfur, and UNAMID’s mere presence in these areas acts as a deterrent and more than justifies its extension.”

On 3 June, the UN Security Council approved the establishment of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) to replace the Darfur-focussed UNAMID peacekeeping force.

UNITAMS will support the political transition in Sudan, the implementation of the recent peace agreement, rule of law and civilian protection, and national peacebuilding efforts, and will heavily depend on the Sudanese joint security forces to implement the protection-of-civilians component of its mandate.

-0- PANA MA 9Dec2020