'Less fighting' in Darfur led to troops cut: UN official

2017-07-21 15:22
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, speaks during a press conference in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. ( File: AFP)

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, speaks during a press conference in the Sudanese capital Khartoum. ( File: AFP)

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Khartoum - A reduction in fighting in Sudan's Darfur, where a brutal conflict has killed thousands, prompted the UN to downsize the number of peacekeepers deployed there, a top UN official said on Thursday.

In June, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution that will cut the number of troops and police serving in the joint African Union-UN mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, by 30% despite concerns raised by rights groups and US officials.

The United Nations and African Union maintain that the Darfur conflict is winding down and that the mission - among the costliest with a budget of over $1bn - should be trimmed.

"The fact is that there is much less fighting in Darfur," John-Pierre Lacroix, chief of UN peacekeeping operations, told reporters in Khartoum.

He said a trimmed down UNAMID will be redeployed mainly to the mountainous Jebel Marra region which still is "complicated and more tense".

Deployed in 2007, UNAMID has about 16 000 blue helmets on the ground who are tasked with protecting civilians in the war that Sudan's government forces and pro-Khartoum militias are waging against rebel groups.

The Darfur conflict erupted in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against President Omar al-Bashir's Arab-dominated government, accusing it of marginalising the region.

Since then, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced and 300 000 killed, the UN says.

The Security Council decided to downsize UNAMID after US pressure led to a $600m cut in the UN budget for peacekeeping operations.

Human rights groups warn that the Darfur conflict is still far from over and that the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers will leave many areas of the region without international protection.

Washington's envoy to Khartoum too has aired concerns on whether the Sudanese government forces would be able to fill the vacuum left by UN troops.

"As we have seen it is not clear that the government is fully able at this point to do that," Steven Koutsis told AFP in June.

Read more on:    un  |  un security council  |  au  |  sudan  |  east africa
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