Stop restricting Unamid, Sudan told
Khartoum - The head of the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Sudan's Darfur called on Tuesday for the Sudanese government and rebels to lift immediately restrictions on its movements.
"I call on all the parties in Darfur to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities and restricted access by Unamid and humanitarian community to all areas of Darfur," Unamid chief Ibrahim Gambari told journalists in Khartoum.
The peacekeepers have had restricted access to sensitive zones in Sudan's war-ravaged western region over the last few months, including where fighting has been taking place between rebels and the Sudanese army.
"We have the mandate to provide security for the population... we have the mandate to provide the environment for the delivery of the humanitarian assistance to those in need," Gambari said.
The mission, the world's largest with 20 000 police and soldiers deployed, only has five helicopters to patrol an area roughly the size of France and needs Khartoum's approval 48 hours in advance of any flights.
Gambari said he realised that his mission would not always get access when fighting was ongoing.
"Where there is heavy fighting, they don't want Unamid to be caught in crossfire, we understand that but it is not everywhere that there is shooting," he said.
Unamid commanders met with representatives of permanent UN Security Council members China and Russia as well as the Arab League in Darfur's El-Fasher on Monday, after which they also called for a lifting of restrictions.
Their final statement "underscored the need for full humanitarian access and freedom of movement for Unamid and the humanitarian community. In particular, the meeting stressed the need for the government of Sudan to lift all restrictions on the use of Unamid air assets".
The largely arid region of Darfur has been gripped by a civil war since 2003 that has killed 300 000 people and displaced another 2.7 million, according to UN figures. Khartoum says 10 000 people have died.