Ban calls on Member States to make up critical shortfalls in Darfur mission

11 February 2009

More than a year after it was set up, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) still lacks critical logistical equipment, especially air power, and is only at some 60 per cent of its mandated strength, even as security in the war-torn Sudanese region worsens dramatically, the United Nations reported today.

More than a year after it was set up, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) still lacks critical logistical equipment, especially air power, and is only at some 60 per cent of its mandated strength, even as security in the war-torn Sudanese region worsens dramatically, the United Nations reported today.

“The provision of outstanding equipment, in particular military helicopter assets, remains critical to increasing the mobility and operational impact of the mission,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in his latest report to the Security Council, calling on Member States who are in a position to provide these vital resources to do so without further delay.

Reviewing UNAMID’s operations for the months of December and January in a region where more than six years of fighting between the Government, allied militia and rebel groups have led to over 300,000 deaths and uprooted over 2.7 million people, Mr. Ban puts the mission’s current deployment at some 18,300 personnel out of a mandated 31,544.

Military personnel numbered 12,541 (64 per cent of the mandated 19,555) as of 31 January, police 2,639 (41 per cent of its mandated 6,432), and civilian personnel 3,129 (56 per cent of the mandated 5,557), with Government cooperation aiding a recent increase in deployment.

Despite significant improvement in moving equipment with the aid of five chartered planes and a United States airlift from Rwanda, Mr. Ban repeatedly stresses the logistical shortcomings at a time when Darfur is wracked by rebel offensives and Government counter-attacks, including aerial bombardments, inter-tribal fighting, increasing violence against civilians, attacks on humanitarian workers, and crimes and carjackings against UN personnel.

“The mission’s actual operational impact has been limited by logistical constraints, inadequate supply of critical equipment and the continued absence of key military enabling units such as the medium transport units, an aerial reconnaissance unit, a level-II hospital and 18 medium utility helicopters,” he writes.

“One area of particular concern relates to the readiness to deploy personnel by troop- and police-contributing countries,” he adds, noting that a wide range of equipment still needs to be procured and personnel need to be adequately trained and prepared prior to deployment. “The state of maintenance of contingent-owned armoured personnel carriers is of particular concern and needs to be improved to provide robust mission force mobility.”

Mr. Ban specifically calls on Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Senegal, Thailand and Tanzania to deploy quickly their infantry battalions, which “would constitute a significant increase in the mission’s troop strength and thus its protection capability and ability to implement its core mandated tasks,” and urges donor States to provide necessary support for such deployment.

Summing up the overall security situation, he highlights the “dramatic deterioration” across Darfur, a region the size of France. “The escalation in the level of violence in Darfur signals an investment in conflict rather than a serious commitment to peaceful negotiations,” he says, stressing the need for a concerted effort by all involved to reach a comprehensive settlement.

He notes that during the reporting period, political progress was impeded by the military action of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), resumption of Government air bombardments, and the general sense that all concerned were waiting for the decision of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on the Prosecutor’s application for an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on charges of war crimes in Darfur.

Some Sudanese officials have suggested that the Government may redefine its relationship with the mission should an arrest warrant be issued. “While recognizing the importance of both peace and justice to the search for a solution in Darfur, Member States have the responsibility to encourage the Government of the Sudan to react responsibly to the International Criminal Court decision, and to engage with the Sudan in a way that brings forward the possibility of a political solution to the conflict,” Mr. Ban writes.

Beyond the conflict, he highlights the difficulties already besetting UNAMID, with carjackings increasing despite measures taken to reduce the problem, patrols being blocked by both Government and rebel forces, and restrictions on air operations preventing the free movement of life-saving assistance by the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Figures for 2008 show an almost doubling of the number of violent attacks on humanitarian aid workers, with 277 vehicles hijacked (compared with 137 in 2007), 218 personnel abducted (147 in 2007), 192 premises attacked (93 in 2007) and 36 staff wounded (24 in 2007). In 2008, 11 staff were killed, with four still missing (13 died in 2007).

“These statistics are a stark reminder of the risks taken and the bravery shown by the aid community working throughout Darfur,” Mr. Ban declares, underscoring the positive role UNAMID has still managed to play.

“With limited capability at its disposal, over the reporting period UNAMID has nevertheless been able to make a difference on the ground. I applaud the efforts of UNAMID and troop-contributing countries in reaching 60 per cent of military deployment on 31 December 2008 in the face of enormous difficulties, including the volatile security situation in Darfur,” he states.

“The sustained cooperation of the Government of the Sudan during the past few months has been important in achieving this level of deployment.”

 

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Darfur: UN helicopter draws fire in north, displacement continues in south

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