The joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in the war-torn Darfur region and the Sudanese Government have taken the first steps to bolstering the safety of peacekeepers due to a surge in attacks against blue helmets in recent months.
A signing ceremony between the mission, known as UNAMID, and the Government was held today, following a working session in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on 20 December to discuss how to reduce the number of incidents.
Earlier this month, five Rwandan peacekeepers were killed in two separate incidents, bringing the total number of blue helmets who have lost their lives in Darfur since UNAMID deployed at the start of 2008 to 22.
Those attacks follow the shooting and wounding of three other peacekeepers, also by unidentified gunmen, in West Darfur in October, and the killing of another in South Darfur in May.
The number of ambushes, kidnappings and carjackings against UNAMID has also risen rapidly in the past few months.
The agreement signed today “will provide additional measures to cap the growing trend of insecurity in Darfur,” UNAMID Force Commander Lieutenant-General Patrick Nyamvumba said.
Under the status-of-forces agreement signed by the Sudanese Government and UNAMID, primary responsibility for the security and protection of peacekeeping personnel and their assets rests with the host Government.
UNAMID was established in 2007 to try to quell the violence in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million others displaced as a result of a conflict pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen since 2003.