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African Union diplomats question UNAMID withdrawal from Darfur


April 26, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The three African non-permanent members of the UNSC, known as the A3, have questioned the viability of UNAMID’s exit from Darfur, without calling openly to maintain the hybrid mission.

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Jerry Matjila South Africa’s Ambassador to the UN (UN photo)

On Friday 24 April, the Security Council held a video conference to discuss the planned exit of the hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur by the end of next October.

In his briefing, Jean-Pierre Lacroix U.N. peacekeeping chief told the meeting that the closure of airports, seaports in response to the COVID-19 has rendered “impractical” an effective exit by 31 October.

Lacroix further pointed out to the enduring threats to civilians and a high anxiety level among the IDPs over UNAMID’s exit, stressing the drawdown process must be "managed carefully", and should not signal the lack of "concerns related to the protection of civilians in Darfur".

Ambassador Jerry Matjila of South Africa to the UN, for his part, said that it is imperative to align a follow-up UN mission to the priorities and objectives set by the Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok in his call for a UN Chapter 6 Mission post-UNAMID’s withdrawal. Also, he said the role of the African Union should continue in the transitional period.

Matjila further pointed to halt of UNAMID withdrawal operations before to ask " what is the feasibility of extending the deadline of UNAMID given the changed circumstances? Is the exit of UNAMID viable at this stage?

The African diplomat who was speaking on behalf of the A3+1 namely Niger, Tunisia, South Africa and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines alluded to a proposal made by the penholders on Darfur (the United Kingdom and Germany) about a police force within the new UN Chapter 6 Mission.

"Should the UN consider maintaining a police presence in Darfur; if the security situation deteriorates in Darfur, to what extent would the UN have the requisite capacity to respond? Would these limited police presence be creating false expectations and potentially undermine the UN’s credibility if there is a weakened presence?"

"Does the security situation, particularly in terms of the protection of civilian mandate, in the entire Darfur merit the total withdrawal of UNAMID by October 2020?," he added questioning the viability of the new mission in term of security issue.

The South African diplomat who praised the "invaluable efforts" of his compatriot and head of the UNAMID, Mamabolo, went further to suggest that the immense political role expected from the new mission should not be disturbed by the security issues.

"Given the broader political developments in Sudan, that require international support to ensure stability of the country, especially its recovery and economic development, should the new UN mission not specifically focus on political and peacebuilding only, with the support of AU and IGAD?" he stressed.

For his part, Ambassador Jonathan Allen, UK Chargé d’Affaires to the UN referred to a request made by the Sudanese prime minister to support Sudan capacity-building efforts, he said that this should also include training and mentoring of police forces.

"(...) we firmly believe that the new mission can and should be a partner to the Government of Sudan in responding to the ongoing protection of civilians’ challenges in Darfur, particularly in the IDP camps," he alluded to the role of the would-be proposed police force.

Lacroix emphasized in his speech that the departure of UNAMID be accompanied by alternative local and national efforts to build trust with the local populations and the internally displaced persons.

Also, he said it is crucial to make progress on the Darfur peace process that taking place in Juba and for the population of Darfur to see "peace dividends" as he said.

"Our objective is to achieve a smooth transition to a future UN mission that can help the UN better support the Sudanese people," he said.

The United Nations and the African Union are expected to come with a detailed proposal for the new UN mission in the upcoming months.


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