UN Police chief in Sudan says Darfur offers both challenges and experience to police

UN Police chief in Sudan says Darfur offers both challenges and experience to police

Kai Vittrup (right) talks to a Darfurian man
The challenges faced by peacekeepers in the upcoming joint United Nations-African Union mission to Darfur cannot be underestimated but the opportunity for police officers to gain invaluable mission experience in what will be the largest UN Police contingent ever are also clear, the UN’s top police officer in Sudan has said, as he urged Member States to provide experienced personnel for the operation.

“There are two advantages of getting experienced international police officers for this mission. First of all, it’s an advantage for achieving the mandate and so it’s good for the people of Darfur who certainly deserve to have peace,” UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) Police Commissioner Kai Vittrup told the UN News Service. The Darfur mission will involve the largest UN Police contingent ever with over 6,400 officers.

“Second, it’s good for officers to be involved in the biggest UN Police mission. They will gain experience and develop capacity in dealing with implementing a very difficult operation. This will benefit the officers when they return to their national forces because they’ll have experiences that no-one else will get or will take years to get.”

“They’ll have the experience of working together with police officers from all over the world, they’ll develop good relations, good co-operation with other cultures and they’ll have a broader view of national diversity when they return home after one or two years,” added the experienced Danish officer who is involved in preparing for the UN’s heavy support package to Darfur.

The lack of infrastructure in the western region is just one challenge to overcome, noted Mr. Vittrup, while also highlighting the need for all officers on the mission to be culturally sensitive and in particular to work with the local communities and get their involvement in solving problems.

“We have to remember that we are guests invited by the government of Sudan and as guests we have to set a good example. Another thing is that wearing the blue beret means you are representing the UN and if you fail in your behaviour and fail in what you’re doing, the UN will be blamed.”

Despite the myriad difficulties however, the key message for Member States’ police officers who take part in the hybrid African Union-UN peacekeeping force in Darfur (to be known as UNAMID) is to remember why they are there in the first place, says Mr. Vittrup.

“We are going there to support in the final peace agreement, the political side of course will have to solve the problem. Going there I consider a calculated risk which I would have to take and that’s it, because even in my country working as a police officer it’s a calculated risk too.”

“From the highest ranking officers to the lowest, when they return to their homes, they’ll be very proud of what they have done in Darfur. They’ll have been there in the service of peace and they’ll have made a difference for the people and for the benefit of Sudan, I think that’s very, very important and something to be proud of.”