Sudan democracy group criticizes plan for UNAMID troop cut

A group of Darfuris prepare to take part in a camel race in Ed Elfursan locality, South Darfur, May 2017 (Photo: UNAMID)

Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG) released a position paper on Monday criticizing plans to downsize the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). SDFG’s paper comes as the UN Security Council prepares to meet over whether to renew the mandate of the hybrid peacekeeping mission, and, if so, how large it should be.

The African Union Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) earlier this month decided to reduce UNAMID force levels to nearly half the current strength. One of the findings of a joint AU/UN strategic review in May was that security had improved in Sudan’s western Darfur region and that there had been no major displacement of civilians in 2017. “We are encouraged by the improvement of the security situation, the political developments in the context of the national dialogue and the positive regional environment in view of the cross-border cooperation between the Central African Republic, Chad, the Sudan and Uganda,” the joint report said.

Jeremiah Mamabolo, UNAMID’s chief, told the Security Council at an April briefing, “Fighting between the Government and the three main non-signatory armed movements had considerably diminished and the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) was no longer capable of mounting and sustaining significant military operations.”

SDFG criticizes this as a “flawed diagnosis,” saying that downsizing the peacekeeping mission will leave civilians in Darfur “more vulnerable to abuses of all kinds by the Sudanese army, paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and other militias operating in the region.”

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UNAMID peacekeepers on patrol in Sortony, North Darfur. Over the past year, thousands of civilians affected by conflict in the Jebel Marra area, Central Darfur, have taken refuge in the vicinity of the Mission’s Sortony Team Site (Photo: Hamid Abdulsalam / UNAMID)

Another key recommendation of the UN-AU review was that the new mandate should include “greater engagement by the mission in inter-communal conflict mitigation.” Stronger ties with other UN agencies working in this area are needed and “UNAMID should focus on its support role to local initiatives through good offices and advisory and logistical support,” says the report.

But SDFG doesn’t see this as helping, explaining today that inter-communal conflicts are only “a symptom of the political and security strategy of the government, a direct result of the proliferation of the pro-government militias beyond the control of the state, facilitated by the grant of impunity, particularly as embodied in the evolution of the Janjaweed/Rapid Support Force militias.”

“The recent legalization and re-structuring of the RSF as well as the associated spread of weapons and arms have exacerbated the situation. Without challenging the role of the state apparatus in these conflicts, addressing inter-communal conflicts will be nothing but lip service.”