Darfur: UN-African Peacekeepers to Set Up Quick Reaction Force to Protect Civilians

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–16 February 2011 – The United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has significantly stepped up its patrols in the strife-torn region of Sudan where there was a recent resurgence of violence and is setting up a quick reaction force to help protect civilians.

“I am deeply concerned about these renewed clashes and have since made strong appeals to the parties to cease further hostilities in the interest of ongoing peace efforts and the safety of the people of Darfur,” UN-AU Joint Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari told a news conference in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital.

Renewed fighting in January has driven some 43,000 people from their homes, according to UNAMID, the more than 20,000-strong uniformed force set up in 2008 to help end a war between the Government, backed by its militia allies, and various rebel groups, which has killed at least 300,000 people and displaced 2.7 million others since it erupted in 2003.

“UNAMID patrols have increased from 90 to 130 military and police patrols daily with additional surge capacity when required,” Mr. Gambari said, noting that between 1 January and 10 February over 6,000 patrols were conducted, mostly to deter armed violence against civilians.

UNAMID is also expanding and upgrading Teams Sites to extend its protection cover to larger parts of Darfur. “Because we cannot be everywhere every time, I have instructed the Joint Operations Centre in UNAMID to set up a quick reaction force in order to assist civilians who are under imminent threat.”

In recent months, particularly November and December, the security situation in parts of Darfur deteriorated, due largely to clashes between the Sudanese armed forces and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), which have taken part in a peace process launched in Doha, the capital of Qatar. Relations also deteriorated between the Government and another rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army/ Minni Minnawi movement (SLA/MM), leading to heavy military confrontations.

A considerable number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) sought refuge in UNAMID Team Sites where military and police personnel provided security, health services, food and other basic needs.

“Although the situation in these conflict-affected areas has improved and UNAMID has stepped up confidence-building patrols in order to encourage gradual returns, several IDPs remain clustered around our Team Sites,” Mr. Gambari said.

On the positive side, he noted that the Government has shown “a commendable willingness” to cooperate with UNAMID in ensuring that the mission has the required access and freedom of movement to implement its mandate, which includes helping to restore security and protect civilians.