The United Nations and the African Union have ordered a review of the joint peace mission, known as UNAMID, in the western Darfur region of Sudan, following improvements in security and a de-escalation of the violence estimated to have displaced 2.5 million people and killed more than 300,000.
In a review of the UN Mission in Sudan operation discussed at yesterday’s United Nation’s Security Council meeting, the United States said it was time to have another look at the mission which costs $1 billion a year. “We might not need 17,000 uniformed troops to tackle these challenges,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the meeting.
We need the UN to start using new tools. And we need the government of Sudan to step up.
Sudan’s UN Ambassador, Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed, whose country has long demanded the removal of UNAMID forces, welcomed a report by the newly appointed head of Darfur hybrid mission (UNAMID) Jeremiah N. Mamabolo which said
The Darfur of today is a very different place from what this region was in 2003 when the armed conflict began, and from that of a year ago.
The head of the peacekeeping mission, who is also the African Union’s special representative said the unilateral ceasefire by the government, the Sudan Liberation Movement of Minni Minnawi (SLA/MM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM/Gibril) was extended by another six months in January 2017 and was largely holding.
The new UN-AU special representative for Darfur told the council that the Sudan Liberation Army’s Wahid faction (SLA/AW) can no longer carry out “significant military operations” and has suffered defections to the government side. But he said Wahid refuses to join the ceasefire.
So far, however, Mamabolo said efforts by the African Union, supported by UNAMID, to get the parties to sign a ceasefire agreement and start direct negotiations toward a peace agreement to end the conflict “have remained inconclusive”.
- The conflict in the vast desert region of Darfur – which is roughly the size of Spain – erupted in 2003, when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against Al-Bashir’s government accusing it of marginalising the region.
But he expressed hope that President Omar Al-Bashir’s 8 March decree pardoning 259 rebels captured in fighting with government forces — including 66 combatants from Darfur on death row — “will contribute to the firming of mutual trust between the Sudanese parties.”
The US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, also urged the main holdout to a ceasefire – Abdul Wahid Elnur whose forces still hold pockets of territory in Jebel Marra – to immediately stop fighting and join the negotiations.
The Security Council is expected to decide on UNAMID’s future in June, when its mandate comes up for renewal. The US administration has made clear it is seeking to cut the UN peacekeeping budget and reshape many of the missions that have been deployed in conflict zones for years.