The Sudanese Government has announced it will streamline some passport and customs procedures to allow the United Nations to better support the existing African Union peacekeeping mission in the war-torn Darfur region.
The move comes as the Tripartite Mechanism, which oversees the implementation of UN support to the AU mission, yesterday welcomed Sudan’s confirmation that it accepts the UN “heavy support package” to the mission, known as AMIS.
The mechanism, comprising representatives of the UN, the AU and Sudan, held its 10th regular meeting at AMIS headquarters in the capital, Khartoum.
Sudanese officials informed the meeting that their country’s mission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, has been instructed to expedite the issuing of travel visas to AMIS staff and associated personnel, without referral to authorities in Khartoum.
Sudanese customs officials have also been approached about the release of pharmaceutical products brought by the UN as part of its “light support package” to AMIS, and those officials have now requested the UN to present customs with certain forms to expedite the clearance of the items.
On Monday, Sudan informed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council that it accepted the heavy support package, the second phase of a three-step plan that is supposed to culminate in a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force of approximately 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers. This force is to be staffed mainly by Africans.
Under the heavy support package, which is expected to cost $300 million over its first six months, the UN will supply more than 2,200 troops, 350 police and 1,100 civilian staff to the AU mission, known as AMIS. Helicopters will also be deployed.
The UN is already providing a $21 million light support package to AMIS which includes police advisers, civilian staff, technical support and other resources.
Since 2003 more than 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur and at least 2 million others forced to leave their homes to escape fighting between Government forces, allied Janjaweed militias and rebel groups. Entire villages have been burned down during the clashes.
Concern has mounted recently that the conflict may spill into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR), and earlier this year Mr. Ban described Darfur as the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The next meeting of the Tripartite Mechanism is slated for 2 May in Khartoum.