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Rebel groups appeal on Security Council to reconsider further downsizing of UNAMID troops

UNAMID's new Temporary Operating Base in Golo, Jebel Marra, Central Darfur on 30 April 2018 (Photo UNAMID)
June 30, 2018 (KHARTOUM) - Three armed groups in Darfur region have appealed the UN Security Council to reconsider its plan to downsize the peacekeepers deployed in the western Sudan region saying civilians are still in dire need for protection.

The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), Sudan Liberation Movement - Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), and SLM-Transitional Council (SLM-TC) made their call in a letter to the Security Council ahead of a vote on the fate of the hybrid force in the region.

Based on a joint report by the African Union and United Nations on the Strategic Review of the UNAMID, the 15-member body may decide the closure of 14 peacekeeping sites in Darfur and keep only 13 others in Jebel Marra area due to the intermittent clashes with the SLM-Abdel Wahid, a group that refuses to commit to a ceasefire.

"Violence has continued in many areas of Darfur, leading to the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians," said the three signatories of a unilateral ceasefire declaration in Darfur in a petition letter extended to the Council on 26 June.

The three groups warned that "any further drawdown or plans to withdraw UNAMID without the satisfaction of clear and measurable benchmarks and before a true resolution of the conflict will jeopardize any chance for durable peace and stability for the people of Darfur".

To plead their call, they said the reduction of clashes outside Jebel Marra does not mean that "the conflict has ended or that the region is secure". Also, they pointed out that civilians continue to be subjected to violence and attacks across the region.

The letter stressed that the lack of security actually is the main reason that explains the refusal of refugees and displaced persons to return to their areas of origin.

"The egregious security situation (...) will only worsen without a strong UNAMID presence throughout Darfur. Moreover, the Government has sought to resettle other populations into the areas from which Darfur civilians have been displaced, further preventing any quick solution for return or peace," they said.

Amnesty International released satellite images showing the damage caused by Sudanese government following attacks carried out against 18 villages in eastern Jebel Marra.

"These images corroborate witness accounts, earlier collected by Amnesty International, from at least 13 affected villages," said the group in a statement released on Saturday.

Amnesty further called on the Security Council to not downsizing the UNAMID, the "only source of security and safety" for Darfur civilians.

“For hundreds of thousands of displaced Darfuris, the ongoing looting and burning of their homes makes the prospect of returning to their villages unthinkable,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

On Friday, the Security Council decided to extend the UNAMID mandate for 18 days in order to fix some technical issues as the discussions continue on the withdrawal of the hybrid mission from the region.

In its resolution of the 18-day extension, the Council noted “with appreciation the Special Report on the UNAMID strategic review, indicating that it would follow its recommendations.

(ST)