Darfur patrol returns home safely after rebel blockade, UN-AU mission reports

21 February 2012

A 55-person patrol of the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur returned to its home base today after the team had been blockaded for nearly two days by armed rebels in the northwest of the troubled Sudanese region.

The mission (UNAMID) said “a show of force and round-the-clock negotiations” resolved the incident after members of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) blocked the patrol and later held two UNAMID language assistants and a police adviser.

“Our officers and their troops demonstrated true resolve, courage and compassion,” said Ibrahim Gambari, the head of UNAMID and the Joint Special Representative of the UN and AU in Darfur, which has been beset by fighting and large-scale displacement since 2003.

“Our troops held their ground; they called in reinforcements and they refused to leave the area without all personnel back on the patrol, including the Yemeni police adviser and two Sudanese language assistants. This afternoon everyone has returned, without injury and without any conditionality.”

The incident began on Sunday when the contingent – comprising 50 Senegalese troops, three police advisers and two language assistants – was blocked by more than 100 JEM members in the village of Shegeg Tova as it was carrying out a long-range patrol from its team site in Umm Baru.

The UNAMID troops then refused to leave until the two language assistants and the police adviser were released.

The stand-off ended after “substantial peacekeeping reinforcements” were sent by the mission, which also made repeated contact with the leadership of JEM.

“Our peacekeepers criss-cross Darfur every day to help bring security to civilians who continue to suffer the effects of conflict,” Mr. Gambari said. “We have a mandate to execute in all parts of Darfur. At the same time we are supporting an ongoing and inclusive peace process, including implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur. This deplorable action taken by JEM contradicts the spirit of this peace process, which most people in Darfur are welcoming.”

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