Darfur: Ban outlines timetable towards full deployment of hybrid force

7 October 2008

The “severely stretched” United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, which has struggled to find enough countries willing to supply troops and equipment, should now reach two-thirds of its full deployment by the end of this year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

The “severely stretched” United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, which has struggled to find enough countries willing to supply troops and equipment, should now reach two-thirds of its full deployment by the end of this year, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today.

Some 85 per cent of the 26,000 troops and police officers expected when the peacekeeping mission, known as UNAMID, is at full capacity should then be in place by next March, “despite the many obstacles,” Mr. Ban told a press conference at UN Headquarters, adding that he may have to adjust the figure slightly depending on the circumstances on the ground.

Only about 10,000 uniformed personnel are currently deployed in Darfur, an impoverished, arid region in western Sudan that has been the centre of fierce fighting and widespread humanitarian suffering since 2003.

Senior UN officials have repeatedly called on countries to provide the necessary blue helmets and equipment, particularly helicopters, so that UNAMID can carry out its mandate.

Mr. Ban said today that the first Egyptian and Ethiopian battalions will be deployed by the end of this month and he has spoken with the leaders of Thailand, Nepal and Ukraine about contributing troops and equipment.

“Yesterday I spoke with the Prime Minister of Thailand [Somchai Wongsawat] with a view toward securing the deployment of a Thai battalion in Darfur,” he said. “I also discussed this matter with the Prime Minister of Nepal [Pushpa Kamal Dahal] during the General Debate [of the General Assembly last month].

"As you know, the Government of Sudan has approved the deployment of both Thai and Nepalese military units. They were very positive conversations and I am assured that the Thai and Nepali Governments will move ahead as soon as possible.”

Turning to Ukraine, the Secretary-General said he explored the possibility of deploying military helicopters and personnel during his meeting with President Viktor Yushchenko on the sidelines of the General Debate.

“We have had subsequent discussions with the Ukrainian Defence Minister [Yuriy Yekhanurov] in New York. These efforts are continuing.”

Mr. Ban warned that the situation in Darfur, where rebels are fighting Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen, continues to deteriorate.

“We are seeing increasing attacks on UN and international [aid] staff. The UNAMID mission is severely stretched.”

Yesterday a Nigerian soldier serving with UNAMID was killed following an ambush of a routine mission patrol in South Darfur state by 40 to 60 unknown attackers wearing civilian clothes. He was the ninth UN soldier to die in Darfur in the past three months.

The blue helmet, who was taking part in a nine-vehicle, 50-strong patrol between Nyala and Khor Abeche when the ambush occurred near Menawashei, died during his medical evacuation to Nyala.

The mission reported that UNAMID forces later captured one of the attackers and handed him to Sudanese Government police in Nyala, which is the South Darfur state capital.

UNAMID said it would investigate the cause and circumstances of the attack, adding it was stepping up its patrols in the area near Menawashei.

Mr. Ban strongly condemned the attack in a statement issued through his spokesperson, offering his condolences to the Nigerian Government and to the friends and family of the deceased.

“Both the Government of Sudan, as well as the concerned armed movements operating in the area, bear responsibility for the provision of security and for refraining from attacks against civilians as well as UN peacekeeper,” the statement noted.

Mr. Ban stressed that “all parties have a responsibility to respect the mandate and integrity” of UNAMID, which has been in place in Darfur since January this year, taking over from the under-resourced African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS).

Asked by journalists today about whether the Security Council should pass a resolution suspending the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Mr. Ban stressed that the ICC is independent and its decisions and judgements should be respected and protected.

"The Sudanese Government should fully cooperate to ensure that this peace process, as well as the safety and security and deployment of the hybrid [UNAMID] operation progress as smoothly [and] as expeditiously as possible while they also look at this issue of taking very credible judicial measures to meet the expectations and requirements of the International Criminal Court."

An estimated 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur over the past five years as a result of direct combat, disease, malnutrition or reduced life expectancy, while another 2.7 million people have been displaced from their homes.

Today, in Khartoum, the first meeting of the tripartite committee – comprising representatives of the UN, AU and Sudanese Government – was held to review the deployment of UNAMID and outline practical solutions to logistical and other challenges which the mission faces.

The three parties agreed “to take every possible step to speed up the deployment,” according to a press release issued by UNAMID, and also backed a set of measures to achieve that accelerated roll-out.

Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, later warned that “the challenges are very high and so we do request the support of the Government of Sudan, without which we cannot achieve this objective.”


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Darfur: UN peacekeepers ambushed during patrol

A group of peacekeepers serving with the joint United Nations-African Union operation in Darfur were ambushed this afternoon while on patrol in the south of the war-torn Sudanese region.