Panafrican News Agency

Rights group warns UN/AU report on Darfur fails to protect vulnerable groups

New York, US (PANA) – The proposal by the United Nations and the African Union to limit the UN’s protection role in Sudan threatens the safety and security of civilians in Darfur, Human Rights Watch warned on Monday.

It said that in a new report that the Security Council is expected to discuss on Tuesday, the UN secretary-general and the AU commission chairperson proposed excluding “physical protection” of civilians from the mandate for a follow-on political and peacebuilding mission in Sudan.

The human rights watchdog said in a statement that when authorising a new countrywide mission for Sudan, the Security Council should include armed police units that could protect civilians, quick reaction peacekeepers to respond to threats as they arise, and mobile human rights monitoring teams based in Darfur.

“Darfur is not like the rest of Sudan,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “The UN Security Council should recognise that Darfur requires a far more gradual withdrawal and keeping a UN security presence on the ground to actively protect civilians. Past and ongoing violence there means civilians can’t trust Sudanese security forces alone and still look to peacekeepers for protection.”

The current UN/AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), is due to withdraw from Sudan by October 2020, following years of downsizing under pressure from Sudan’s previous government and Western governments eager to reduce costs.

The mission will close its last 14 bases and withdraw all its remaining 4,040 military personnel and 2,500 police by October 31.

Human Rights Watch said the proposal set out in the secretary-general’s report does not include any uniformed personnel to protect civilians in Darfur, where risks remain acute.

The report only suggests some individual police advisers to train and support the Sudanese authorities, stating “civilian protection is a Sudanese responsibility, while a post-UNAMID mechanism may provide advisory and capacity building support to the authorities who would need to fulfill it”.

The report suggests that these advisers should work with “Sudanese police forces, community policing volunteers, the Women’s Protection Networks, and other partners”.

Human Rights Watch said across Darfur, where large-scale government-led attacks began in 2003, threats to civilians persist.

It said while the secretary-general’s report acknowledges that “new displacement continues to occur in the Golo area,” it makes no recommendations to effectively respond to those needs after UNAMID leaves.

In its latest communique, the AU Peace and Security Council called for “extreme caution on the withdrawal of UNAMID, to sustain the gains made and to avoid relapse and security vacuum”, Human Rights Watch said.

“There’s no need for the UN Security Council to accept the limited options being presented,” Roth said.

“The Security Council should instead establish a follow-on mission that supports the nationwide transition to rights-respecting civilian rule and peacebuilding, but that also recognizes the need to continue to protect civilians in Darfur,” he added.

-0- PANA MA 17March2020