September 11, 2017 (EL-FASHER) – The hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) on Monday denied allegations of “improper handover” of team sites in North Darfur.
On Saturday, two Darfur armed groups, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), accused the Mission of handing over two former bases in North Darfur state to the notorious Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militia.
They said the Mission gave its bases in Maleet and Malha areas of North Darfur state to the RSF militia in flagrant breach to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between the Government of Sudan (GoS) and the UNIMID.
However, in a statement released on Monday, the Mission denied the allegations, saying the “closed team sites have been handed over to the Government of Sudan or appropriate private parties as per lease agreements signed by the Mission”.
Referring to the UN Security Council resolution 2363, the Mission said its “priorities in Darfur remain the same—protecting civilians, facilitating access and security for humanitarian actors and working to ameliorate the root causes of communal conflict”.
“In line with the mandate, the Mission is reducing the number of military, police and civilian personnel, and has earmarked 11 team sites for closure across Darfur” read the statement.
“Four team sites have been closed to date: Malha, Mellit and Um Kadada, North Darfur, and Muhajeria, East Darfur. Seven team sites are yet to be closed. These are Abu Shouk, Tine, Habila, Forobaranga, Tulus, Eid Al Fursan and Zam Zam” the Mission added.
Last June, the African Union and the United Nations decided to draw down the UNAMID) by withdrawing the military personnel by 44% and that of the police component by 30%, the closure of 11 team sites in the first phase and the withdrawal of the military component from another 7 team sites in the second phase.
The Sudanese army has been fighting a group of armed movements in Darfur since 2003. UN agencies estimate that over 300,000 people were killed in the conflict, and over 2.5 million were displaced.
The hybrid mission has been deployed in Darfur since December 2007 with a mandate to stem violence against civilians in the western Sudan’s region.
It is the world’s second largest international peacekeeping force with an annual budget of $1.35 billion and almost 20,000 troops.