Are Peacekeepers to leave Darfur?

By Alexa Huffman

The Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, says it is now the time for international peacekeepers to prepare to leave Darfur. This was in response to a United Nations report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The latest report on the situation in Darfur outlines that the United Nations-African Union mission (UNAMID) in Darfur has been “fraught with difficulties.” There have been bureaucratic delays and other difficulties including warning shots fired at the UNAMID, weapons pointed at convoys, and Sudanese helicopters flying low over UNAMID in a threatening matter. Harassing and limiting movements of UNAMID personnel is in breach of the Status of Forces Agreement, a deal that was made when the peacekeepers were deployed two years ago. The report also says there are now “close to 20,000 troops and police deployed in Darfur, the site of what U.N. official’s say is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.” According to the U.N., as many as 300,000 people have died in the conflict, which Khartoum denies.

Abdalhaleem disagrees strongly with the report on the conflict-torn Darfur region. The Sudan envoy’s belief is that the report should have focused on the fact that, according to him, the war is over, peace is in sight and the African Union and the Sudanese government needs an exit strategy for the peacekeepers. The U.N.s main initiative should be ensuring peace talks between the government and rebels reach success.

UNAMID is also in conflict over what status the situation should be labeled as. Some UNAMID officials describes the war as over, others have said the Sudanese government and rebels were bringing troops into Darfur which could possibly lead to new violence. UNAMID has been working for two years to try and stabilize the region and protect the citizens of Darfur.

They continue to conflict with Khartoum, well government and rebel forces continue to clash. There has also been fighting amongst Sudan and Chad at the border. Efforts to resume peace negotiations between the parties in Darfur have not worked. U.N. officials also say “Darfur is also plagued by rampant banditry and that a wave of kidnappings of aid workers has led some humanitarian aid agencies to curtail staff in the region, causing a 50 percent cut in aid presence in remote areas.” All this is in the midst of trying to prepare for Sudan’s first multi-party elections in 24 years in April 2010. However these elections have had to extend voter registration, and there are already worries that with National Congress Party of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir the elections will not be fair.

As is evident there is still much work to do in the region. There are still conflicts raging. Although it is unclear what exactly the status of Darfur is at present, what is clear is these citizens have suffered and have no clear leadership to help rebuild. There is still work to be done. Success needs to be achieved before an exit, or else it was a wasted two year mission. I do not think it is a good time for peacekeepers to leave Darfur.


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