“Now is not the time to abandon the people of Darfur” | UNAMID review TOMORROW

29 June 2015

The status of the hybrid United Nations–African Union Mandate in Darfur (UNAMID) will be reviewed tomorrow (30th June 2015), as the extension of the peace keeping mission set out in the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2173 reaches the end of its term. Considering the present humanitarian crisis in Darfur, with displacement figures for this year on track to be the worst since the height of the genocide, implementation of the UNAMID exit strategy at this time would be wholly inappropriate.

The 2015 Humanitarian Response Plan, produced, importantly, in partnership by the UN and the Sudanese Government, states that there were 2.5 million IDPs in Darfur as of November 2014. The June 2015 UN estimate stands at 2.55 million.  Ongoing attacks on civilians, including the increased use of sexual violence as a military tactic, continue to put civilians in grave danger from attacks by the military regime. For example, in February 2015, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a Sudanese Government force consisting of largely former militias, moved into Darfur and carried out ground attacks on dozens of villages – burning homes, looting livestock, killing and robbing civilians and displacing tens of thousands of residents.

The Government of Sudan (GoS) has requested that the UNAMID exit strategy be implemented immediately. The mission staff base has already been cut by 10,000 and the regime wants to see a further reduction of 15,000 more staff this year. The GoS has refused to cooperate with the peace keeping mission, including restricting access to conflict areas including the rebel stronghold, Jebel Mara, and the denying visas to diplomats from the U.S., Britain and France earlier this year. Particularly problematic for relations between UNAMID and GoS was the denial of access for peacekeepers to the site of the Tabit mass rapes in October 2014. When UNAMID was eventually granted access, Sudanese security forces were present during their investigation, severely restricting its ability to collect evidence from witnesses. Chronic security threats have further undermined UNAMID’s ability to fulfil its mandate of protecting civilians and contributing to security for humanitarian access. Human Rights Watch reports that at least 207 peacekeepers have been killed in attacks since 2008.

Sudan analyst, Eric Reeves, highlights in a recent article that, “As badly as UNAMID has performed, however, it is all that allows international humanitarian organizations to remain in Darfur. If UNAMID withdraws, or is hopelessly compromised, these organizations may be forced to end their work. To date, some 25 to 30 international relief organizations have been expelled by Khartoum [GoS] or have withdrawn because of a lack of security. This has occurred against a backdrop of extreme malnutrition in many locations, a desperate lack of clean water and sanitation, and a rapidly collapsing system for providing primary medical care.”

In the Report of the Secretary-General (26th May 2015), Ban Ki-moon recommended a 12-month extension of UNAMID without modification, until 30th June 2016, given the current situation in Darfur. This recommendation is widely supported by civil society and rights groups. In an open letter to UNSC members, 96 Sudanese representatives and rights groups, including HART, implored the UNSC to renew UNAMID and ensure the continuation of its presence and further empowerment to fulfil its mandate. US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, has also publically supported the renewal of UNAMID saying, “Now is not the time to withdraw UN peacekeepers; and now is not the time to abandon the people of Darfur”.

It is not appropriate to consider an exit strategy at the request of the Sudanese Government, who have been accused of the majority of human rights violations in Darfur. As argued in Waging Peace’s recent letter to Phillip Hammond, any UNAMID drawback must be condition-based, and should require substantial improvement to the humanitarian situation in Darfur beforehand.

You can take action to urge the renewal and strengthening of UNAMID by signing this petition:

Don’t Abandon the People of Darfur and Renew UNAMID’s Mandate

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