The United Nations and African Union are making good progress in the deployment of their joint peacekeeping force in Darfur but the war-wracked region of western Sudan remains beset by deadly fighting, the displacement of civilians, banditry and human rights abuses, the head of UN peacekeeping told the Security Council today.
Alain LeRoy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed Council members on his recent visit to Darfur, where the hybrid UN-AU operation (known as UNAMID) will eventually become the UN peacekeeping force in the world with more than 26,000 troops, military observers and police officers.
So far, however, only about 10,000 blue helmets have been deployed since the mission started work in January, and UN officials have repeatedly urged Member States to provide the key personnel and equipment – particularly helicopters – needed by UNAMID.
“Increased numbers and, more importantly, increased capability will give UNAMID a chance to implement the wide-ranging mandate given to it by the Security Council,” Mr. Le Roy said. “Above all, it will give UNAMID the tools to protect civilians as initially envisaged by the Security Council.”
The Under-Secretary-General said he saw “good progress” on his recent visit, citing the collaborative efforts between the mission and the humanitarian community in West Darfur and the recent permanent patrols established by UNAMID police at the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Darfur, the scene of deadly recent clashes between Sudanese security forces and the residents.
“I also heard from Government officials, at every level, that a new page had been turned and that every effort would be made to support our efforts to deploy UNAMID.”
But many UNAMID troops remain under-equipped or poorly resourced, he said, stressing the need for robust troops with the necessary capabilities to operate in such a difficult environment.
He also cautioned that “the day-to-day tumult and tragedy of Darfur” continues, presenting a serious challenge to the forces already deployed as they try to protect civilians and quell the suffering.
“There is still fighting. There is still displacement. We still receive reports of rapes and civilians under imminent threat,” Mr. Le Roy said, noting also the “relentlessly high level of banditry and criminality.”
Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, told the same Council meeting that she believed UNAMID can reach targets of 60 per cent deployment by the end of this year and 80 per cent by next March.
“These new, revised targets reflect a scaling back of initial extremely ambitious projections,” she said. “The new targets are still ambitious, but in our view can be achieved.”
Ms. Malcorra urged donors to mobilize personnel and equipment and fill resource gaps so the mission can meet its targets.
More than 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million have had to flee their homes because of fighting since 2003 between rebels, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.