The Security Council today approved the creation of a hybrid United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force to quell the violence and instability plaguing the Darfur region of Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and two million others forced to flee their homes.
In what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called a “historic and unprecedented resolution,” Council members unanimously backed the establishment of a force of nearly 20,000 military personnel and more than 6,000 police officers.
The hybrid operation – to be known as UNAMID – has an initial mandate of 12 months and will incorporate the existing AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which has been deployed across Darfur since 2004. It will become the largest peacekeeping force in the world.
By October UNAMID is scheduled to have its management, command and control structures in place, and then by the end of the year it is expected to be ready to take over operations from AMIS.
Since fighting erupted between rebel groups, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militias in 2003, UN officials have repeatedly described Darfur as the scene of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. More than 200,000 people have been killed and the conflict has spilled into neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR).
“You are sending a clear and powerful signal of your commitment to improve the lives of the people of the region, and close this tragic chapter in Sudan’s history,” Mr. Ban told the Council after it voted for the resolution authorizing the force.
Stressing the need to move rapidly to ensure UNAMID can deploy on time, he called on Member States to contribute troops and police officers and urged the Sudanese Government and the rebel groups to immediately end hostilities and give their “unequivocal and continuous support” to the force.
UNAMID is tasked with acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to support the “early and effective implementation” of last year’s Darfur Peace Agreement between the Government and the rebels, and it is also mandated to protect civilians, prevent armed attacks and ensure the security of aid workers and its own personnel and facilities.
Command and control structures and backstopping for UNAMID will be provided by the UN, today’s resolution added, and the operation will also have a single chain of command.
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno told reporters that “enormous work” would be required between now and the end of the year to make sure that UNAMID can start operations on time.
The resolution has been adopted just days before the UN and AU Special Envoys for Darfur, Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, host “pre-negotiation talks” in Arusha, Tanzania, with those rebel groups and militias that have not signed the Darfur Peace Agreement.
Mr. Ban said it was critical that the three-day meeting starting on Friday “yield positive results so as to pave the way for negotiations and, ultimately, a peace agreement. Only in this way can we end the violence and destruction that have afflicted Darfur for more than three years.”