The joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force in the conflict-affected Sudanese region of Darfur is nearing full capacity, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report in which he warns that the mission continues to lack crucial equipment required to enhance the capability of both its military and police units.
As at 15 April, the personnel strength of the AU-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) military component stood at 17,157, representing 87 per cent of the authorized maximum of 19,555, the Secretary-General says in his latest report to the Security Council covering the period between February and April.
The military component is made up of 16,558 troops, 333 staff officers, 61 liaison officers and 205 military observers. The total number of personnel in the formed police units (FPUs) stands at 1,812, or 68 per cent of the authorized strength of 2,660.
“I am encouraged by the progress that UNAMID has made towards full deployment in Darfur. At the same time, continuing shortfalls in terms of the self-sustainment of military and formed police units remain a challenge to the operational capability of the mission,” Mr. Ban writes.
He thanks the troop- and police-contributing countries and urges them to ensure that the necessary arrangements are made for the deployment of the equipment and other facilities. Helicopters and military vehicles such as armoured personnel carriers continue to be in short supply.
Positive developments in Darfur during the reporting period include progress in talks held in Doha, Qatar, between the Sudanese Government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), one of the main rebel factions in Darfur, and an improvement in relations between Chad and Sudan, according to the report.
He also notes that national elections in April took place largely without violence in Darfur, but laments that the census and constituency delimitation processes were strongly contested.
“Substantial segments of the population, including those in rebel-held areas and many camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), were not included in the voter registration exercise, as a result of insecurity, boycotts and alleged flaws in the process,” Mr. Ban says.
“It therefore remains vital that the Government of the Sudan find mechanisms for including the views of these people in national decision-making processes, including through the ongoing discussions aimed at a comprehensive peace agreement.”
Increasing deployment and operational capabilities of UNAMID, especially in remote areas, have helped to improve the safety and security of residents of Darfur, including through expanded patrolling, community policing and improved collaboration with Sudanese authorities, the Secretary-General says.
However, he notes that there remain serious challenges to the achievement of a lasting peace in the region, not least because of the ongoing reports of violence in many areas of Darfur, the lack of participation by some key groups in the political process, and the failure of the electoral process to include large segments of Darfur’s population.
“I am also very concerned at the inter-communal violence in Darfur, which resulted in the highest number of casualties during any reporting period since the inception of UNAMID,” Mr. Ban says, adding that continuing denial of access to UNAMID by various parties, particularly to areas in which clashes have reportedly occurred, such as the mountainous Jebel Marra region, had significantly constrained the mission’s ability to implement its mandate regarding the protection of civilians.
Deliberate attacks on UNAMID and the threatening posture of some commanders on the ground often impeded mission patrols to vulnerable areas, particularly those under the control of non-signatories to the 2006 Darfur Peace Agreement.
Mr. Ban also expresses concern over the proliferation of firearms among communities in Darfur and warns that it could continue to pose a threat to the stability of the region.
“It is disheartening to note that, during the month of March 2010 alone, 182 civilians were killed as a result of such clashes. In this regard, the authority of traditional conflict resolution mechanisms should be strengthened. For its part, UNAMID has, since its inception, been working closely with local institutions to support their efforts to maintain peaceful coexistence among communities.”
Mr. Ban notes that the humanitarian operation in Darfur has succeeded in stabilizing the situation with regard to food security, health, nutrition and water. But he stresses that the efforts must continue because the situation remains fragile.