Sudan ups pressure for exit of Darfur peacekeepers
23 May 2016, 10:26
Khartoum – As the UN Security Council begins talks
next month on renewing its mission in Darfur for another year, Sudan has
stepped up pressure for a complete exit of international peacekeepers from the
About 20 000 troops and policemen from more than 30
countries are currently in Sudan's western region of Darfur as part of the
African Union-United Nations mission, UNAMID.
Deployed in 2007, UNAMID has a mandate to curb
violence in Darfur, a region the size of France.
Deadly conflict there since 2003 has left tens of
thousands of civilians dead.
Khartoum insists that unrest in Darfur has now
ended, and that a referendum held there in April was a clear example of
security returning to the war-scarred region.
"It's time to say goodbye to the UNAMID
mission," Sudan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Kamal Ismail said
last week in Khartoum.
"This mission came to protect civilians, but
now there is no danger to civilians, there is no conflict in Darfur."
Violence erupted in Darfur when ethnic minority
rebels rose against President Omar al-Bashir, accusing his Arab-dominated
government of marginalising the region.
Bashir mounted a brutal counter-insurgency and at
least 300 000 people have been killed in the conflict, the UN says. Another 2.5
million have fled their homes.
Khartoum says last month's referendum "turned
a page" on Darfur's crisis, with almost 98% of voters opting to maintain
the region as five separate states.
The referendum was boycotted by the opposition and
Darfur was a single region until 1994 when the
government split it into three states, and later added another two in 2012,
claiming it would make local government more efficient.
Ismail said Khartoum is negotiating through a task
force with concerned UNAMID groups to reach a time frame for the mission's
Officials said some UNAMID member countries have
also expressed a desire to exit or cut troop numbers in the mission.
'Waste of money'
UNAMID officials and foreign diplomats AFP spoke to
said that although clashes between government troops and rebels have declined
in recent months, the overall situation in Darfur was still a concern.
Security in Darfur was still "fluid and
unpredictable", a top UN rights expert said after touring the region last
"There is massive displacement still happening
in Darfur," a foreign diplomat monitoring the situation told AFP, on
condition of anonymity.
Tens of thousands of newly displaced people have taken
refuge in North Darfur after an upsurge in fighting this year between the army
and rebels in the thickly forested rocky mountain range of Jebel Marra.
Six civilians were killed on May 9 when armed
tribesmen attacked the makeshift camp in the town of Sortoni where these people
have sought safety.
In April, as many as 20 people were killed in
clashes between two rival Arab tribes in East Darfur sparked by livestock
thefts, just a day after gunmen torched the residence of the state governor.
Apart from the insurgency, parts of Darfur have
been further hit by confrontations between myriad ethnic and tribal groups, as
well as by rising criminality.
Downplaying the latest violence, Tijani Sissi, who
heads the Darfur Regional Authority told AFP that such incidents were expected
given that the "the region is coming out of war".
Khartoum is "very much interested" in the
UNAMID mission leaving, said the foreign diplomat, "but UNAMID can pull
out only when UN mentioned benchmarks are achieved in Darfur".
These include protection of civilians, facilitating
humanitarian assistance and successful peace negotiations between Khartoum and
rebel groups that have not yet signed the Doha accord for peace in Darfur.
Ismail insists that Sudan was in a position to
"maintain peace" in Darfur if UNAMID leaves, adding that funds spent
on the mission could be diverted for development projects in Darfur or
elsewhere in Sudan.
"The continuation of this mission is simply a
waste of money," Ismail said.