The joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) confirmed today that a Ugandan civilian police inspector serving with the operation has been “brutally and shamelessly murdered” in the north of the strife-torn region of Sudan.
Inspector John Kennedy Okecha was found dead last night in a UNAMID vehicle about two kilometres from Zam Zam in North Darfur state. He had been shot three times in the neck, chest and stomach.
Henry Anyidoho, the Deputy Joint Special Representative of the UN and AU, voiced his shock and outrage at the killing.
“I learned of this wanton and barbaric act with disbelief and dismay,” he said. “This was a hideous and callous crime against an unarmed peacekeeper and I condemn it without reservation.”
The police component of UNAMID, which has described the killing as an “act of cold-blooded murder,” has appealed to anyone with knowledge of what happened to share information with authorities so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
Last week four members of a Nigerian battalion with the mission were ambushed in West Darfur state by a group of about 60 armed men. Although no one was killed, the peacekeepers were robbed of ammunition, telephones and cash.
Mr. Okecha is the first peacekeeper serving with UNAMID to be killed since it took over operations from an AU-only mission at the start of this year. The goal of the current mission is to end the deadly clashes and humanitarian suffering that has engulfed the region of western Sudan since rebels began fighting Government forces and allied militiamen in 2003.
At full deployment UNAMID should eventually have about 26,000 uniformed personnel, but it had just over 9,000 as of the end of last month.
Speaking today in New York at a press conference to mark the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno expressed his sadness at Mr. Okecha’s killing and said it illustrated the difficulties faced by blue helmets.
“This is a dangerous business,” he said. “The question has always been whether we have enough resources to protect ourselves as well as the people we are mandated to protect, and frankly – as I’ve told you before – in Darfur, we don’t.”
He called on Member States to show greater support for UNAMID and other missions and reminded them of the perils of placing troops on the ground without a clear strategic vision, strong political backing and sufficient financial support.