February 14, 2012 (KHARTOUM) —The head of the hybrid peacekeeping operation in Darfur, United Nations - African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Ibrahim Gambari, rejected recent criticisms directed against him for an encounter with the Sudanese president saying he cannot avoid to meet him .
Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticised Gambari for attending the wedding of the Chadian President Idriss Deby to the daughter of a Darfur militia leader where he appeared with the President Omar al-Bashir. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over his potential responsibility for war crimes and genocide committed in Darfur.
In a letter to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said the UN guidelines limits interactions with individuals indicted by international tribunals to “what is strictly required for carrying out UN mandated activities”.
"The chief of the largest peacekeeping mission in the world can not avoid to meet the head of the state where he is working and with whom he has to work," said Gambari in an interview with the official Sudanese agency, SUNA on Monday.
The Nigerian diplomat told the AFP last month that he had no apologies for attending the ceremony "in honour of the president of a country [Chad] that is supportive of the peace process".
On 1 February, UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said Gambari had been asked to avoid unnecessary encounters in the future despite the unintentional character of his encounter with the Sudanese president at the wedding.
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) last week slammed Gambari for attending the wedding of the daughter of a Janjaweed leader and his presence besides the Sudanese President. The rebel group also accused the UNAMID chief of supporting the Sudanese regime for granting 25 vehicles to the police of Darfur.
In his interview, Gamabari also refused the rebel accusations and stressed that his action meant to promote the rule of law and stability. He also stressed that the collaboration with local police allowed to reduce crime and insecurity there.
In September 2011, the UNAMID donated the 25 vehicles to the anti car theft units in the then three states of Darfur to support their action against the car-jacking in the region.