- A Chinese soldier from an engineering unit practice at an army camp in Qinyang, Henan province September 15, 2007 (Reuters)
According to China’s official news agency Xinhua, the Defence Ministry said this is the first group of a peacekeeping team including 225 blue helmets, pointing out that the rest of the team would head to Darfur next Tuesday.
It added the Chinese blue helmets would be tasked “with maintaining supplies and engineering projects, restoring buildings, and constructing and repairing houses, roads and airports”.
It is noteworthy that China had previously sent an engineering team including 109 peacekeepers to Darfur to participate in the UN peacekeeping mission for one year.
China currently contributes more than 2000 blue helmets to the UN peacekeeping missions in nine countries including South Sudan, Mali and Liberia.
In June 2017, the African Union and the UN decided to draw down the hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (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 UN Security Council (UNSC) admitted that the security situation in Darfur has improved but it decided to reinforce its presence in the mountainous area of Jebel Marra because there is no cessation of hostilities as a Sudan Liberation Movement faction led by Abdel Wahid al-Nur (SLM-AW) refuses to declare a unilateral truce or to engage in peace negotiations.
Last July, the UNSC unanimously decided to extend for one year the mandate of the UNAMID and also to reduce the number of its troops in line with an exit strategy aiming to close the hybrid operation in two years.
The hybrid mission has been deployed in Darfur since December 2007 with a mandate to stem violence against civilians in 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. UN agencies estimate that over 300,000 people were killed in the Darfur conflict since 2003, and over 2.5 million are displaced.