August 27, 2009 (LONDON) — Rebel groups dismissed today remarks made by the outgoing chief commander of the hybrid peacekeeping force (UNAMID) who said today that Darfur is no longer in state of war.
- General Martin Luther Agwai, Force Commander of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) (AFP)
The outgoing commander of the UNAMID, Martin Luther Agwai, told reporters that the six-year armed conflict in Darfur has turned into "very low intensity" clashes and banditry.
"You see, the causes of the conflict in Darfur have changed completely. If war is a conflict whereby today you attack and then go back home and stay until three, four, five months and come back... If that is a definition of war then there is a war in Darfur"
"But if that is not the definition then there is no war as of now in Darfur," said Agwai.
The Nigerian officer, who is replaced by Rwandan Patrick Nyamvumba, has been today awarded by the Sudanese President of the Nelein Order (first class) in recognition of his efforts in Darfur peacekeeping mission.
Agwai remarks angered Darfur rebels who rejected it and agreed that the outgoing top military commander have avoided to deal with his failure to protect civilians and to quell attacks against the internally displaced persons in the troubled region.
Abdel-Wahid Al Nur the founder of the rebel SLM said Agwai statements are a remake of what President Al-Bashir had asserted in the past. He further added that this war is not over because there are people who were killed and others who are settled in their homeland.
"If he is telling the truth I need to know why there are millions of IDPs in Darfur camps" he stressed.
Ahmed Hussein Adam, the official spokesperson of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) said they reject "these misleading statements." He further regretted that a "UN official who is supposed to observe neutrality makes such biased remarks."
UN experts say the fighting in Darfur between Sudanese army, pro-government militias and Darfur rebels has killed 300,000 people and made over 2.7 million homeless. Sudan says the figures are much lower and indicate some 10,000 victims.
Appointed in 2007, during the two years Agwai organized the transition from the African Union mission to the UNAMID. He worked hard in 2008 to persuade Khartoum to accept the non-African troops in order to enhance the capabilities of the peacekeeping operation.
Adam said the general Martin tries to mask his failure to protect Darfur camps residents and to restore security. He also said the killing of dozens of civilians in Kalma camp last year and the recent killing of a local camp leader in Abu Shouk proves the failure of UNAMID in this respect.
Al-Nur said general Agwai statements prove the frustration of the peacekeeping mission adding that this UNAMID is not able to protect Darfur civilians or defend itself. However he said the "UNAMID mandate is to blame for this failure."
"I wished to hear Agwai commenting on his two-year mission and asking to change its mandate." Nur said.
JEM spokesperson Ahmed Hussein Adam said these statements provide Khartoum a political cover to continue its crimes against civilians. Further, he said it would encourage Khartoum to be reluctant to achieve peace.
He asked why these statements and at this particular moment. He urged UNAMID chief commander to withdraw his remarks. "It seems that there are attempts to liquidate Darfur issue," he concluded.
Rodolphe Adada, outgoing head of UNAMID, speaking to Agence France Presse, said today that his soldiers have ended the massacres that long plagued the Sudanese region.
"I would like to be judged, for UNAMID to be judged, on the number of deaths in Darfur," since January 2008, the date of the force’s deployment in western Sudan.