Sudan urges UN to withdraw all peacekeepers by June 2020

2019-08-28 05:48
Sudanese students wave national flags as they protest in the capital Khartoum, a day after teenagers were shot at a rally against shortages of bread and fuel in the town of al-Obeid. (Ebrahim Hamid, AFP)

Sudanese students wave national flags as they protest in the capital Khartoum, a day after teenagers were shot at a rally against shortages of bread and fuel in the town of al-Obeid. (Ebrahim Hamid, AFP)

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Sudan has called on the United Nations Security Council to lift its suspension of troop withdrawals and ensure all peacekeepers leave Darfur by June 2020, but the African Union said overall security in the vast western region "remains volatile."

Sudan's UN Ambassador Omer Mohamed Siddig told the council on Monday that it is time to shift from peacekeeping to peacebuilding in Darfur, and to end restrictions on the government's movement of arms and troops in and out of the region.

READ | Toward a new era: What is in Sudan's landmark pact

In late June, the Security Council voted unanimously to put the brakes on the withdrawal of the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force from Darfur, as the country dealt with a political crisis.

It extended the mandate of the force, known as UNAMID, until October 31, and it asked the UN and AU to make recommendations by September 30 on what the council should do about continuing the withdrawal.

The UN currently has almost 5 600 so-called blue helmets in Darfur, though plans had been in place to reduce the force's size to 4 050.

Conflict

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when ethnic Africans rebelled, accusing the Arab-dominated Sudanese government of discrimination.

The government in Khartoum was accused of retaliating by arming local nomadic Arab tribes and unleashing them on civilian populations - a charge it denies.

In recent years, as the result of a successful government military campaign, the rebellion has been reduced to a rebel Sudan Liberation Army faction headed by Abdul Wahid Elnur in Jebel Marra.

In July 2018, the Security Council voted to dramatically cut the UNAMID force in response to reduced fighting and improved security conditions. The target for ending the mission is June 30, 2020.

Smail Chergui, the AU commissioner for peace and security, told the council that Darfur still faces "intermittent armed clashes" between government forces and Elnur's rebels, who also have abducted civilians and staff of nongovernmental organisations for ransom, robbed commercial trucks and looted property of local media and humanitarian organisations.

UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Chergui both expressed concern about growing tensions between farmers and herders in Darfur, and the AU commissioner said the current farming season is likely to see more land-related violence.

The Darfur conflict took place under the three-decade autocratic rule of former President Omar al-Bashir, during which Sudan was convulsed by a bloody civil war and rebellions, not only in Darfur but in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.

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