The head of the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur today issued a call for maximum restraint by all parties following the eruption of deadly violence which has displaced thousands in the troubled Sudanese region in recent days.
Fighting, such as the kind which broke out in Jebel Marra in South Darfur and Jebel Moon in West Darfur, “may negatively affect the ongoing peace process, which has seen significant strides towards bringing stability to the region,” said Ibrahim Gambari, Joint Special Representative of the mission, known as UNAMID.
Mr. Gambari, who took up his new post last month, has travelled to Doha to meet with representatives from both the Sudanese Government and rebel groups.
He stressed that UNAMID’s main focus is to assist in securing lasting peace and stability in the region by bolstering the security of civilians and uprooted people in Darfur, where the conflict has killed an estimated 300,000 people and displaced 2.7 million others.
The mission has responded to the latest outbreak of clashes by increasing its security presence in and around the region to prevent an uptick in violence, and is also working closely with humanitarian agencies to help the newly displaced.
In a related development, UNAMID today confirmed that it has received five tactical helicopters from Ethiopia. They arrived in Nyala, South Darfur, with 15 pilots and crew members onboard, and will join a 185-member advance team which took up duties last month.
While Mr. Gambari said that he is grateful to the Ethiopian Government, the mission pointed out that it still needs 18 utility helicopters and two transport units.
Last week, a senior UN peacekeeping official told the Security Council that although sporadic fighting persists in Darfur and formal talks for a political solution have not yet been possible, recent positive developments give rise for some optimism.
“While the challenges in Darfur remain enormous, there is a hope and an opportunity that the coming year will bring positive changes for the region,” Assistant-Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), Dmitry Titov, said.
He cited recent high-level talks between the leaders of Sudan and Chad to increase security along their common border and Chad’s decision to expel Sudanese armed opposition groups as “a very positive step.”
He also noted that UNAMID, which has faced significant difficulties in reaching its full complement of some 26,000 military and police personnel as well as helicopter and other logistical capability, has taken “significant steps” towards full deployment, with all but two of its 18 battalions on the ground by the end of the month and an Ethiopian tactical helicopter unit due in mid-February.
But Mr. Titov cautioned that the sporadic clashes among the rebel forces and between the Government and the rebels, carjackings and attacks on humanitarian workers, as well as the intentional killing of five UNAMID peacekeepers in December and restriction by all sides on the mission’s freedom of movement, “seriously undermine efforts to achieve a political solution to the conflict and continue to put civilian lives at risk.”