Peacekeepers will stay in Darfur even if Sudanese President indicted – UN official

Alain Le Roy

2 March 2009 – With the International Criminal Court (ICC) expected to announce its decision on seeking an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir on charges of war crimes this week, the chief of United Nations peacekeeping operations today said that the joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) will continue its patrols protecting the local population.

Speaking to the press at UN Headquarters in New York, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alan Le Roy, said that he is assured that peacekeepers in Darfur will not come under threat should the ICC indict President Al-Bashir.

“The Government would assume its full duty of protecting UN missions in Sudan against any negative impact that may result from ICC possible decision against the Sudanese political leadership,” Mr. Le Roy told journalists in a wide-ranging briefing on the work of the 18 UN peacekeeping missions around the world.

He added that the UN did not have any information on whether the ICC will issue an arrest warrant, stressing that the Court in The Hague is an independent body and will announce its decision on 4 March.

“We are not informed of their final decision. Anyone can guess,” said Mr. Le Roy. “Of course, we are making some plans as any country would have contingency planning to try to react to any situation,” he said of the 25,000 personnel deployed in the Sudan that could be affected by the ICC decision.

Mr. Le Roy underscored, however, that there is no plan in place to scale down or move the two UN peacekeeping missions in the Sudan, the UN mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and UNAMID.

As part of his briefing of the state of peacekeeping for the some 112,000 UN blue helmets on the ground, Mr. Le Roy touched on the challenges in Afghanistan and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

On the intention of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to bring forward the planned 20 August national elections, Mr. Le Roy considered it would be very difficult to organize the logistics and security before July, and that there must be a consensus on the date of the election among Afghan political parties in conformity with the constitution.

In the eastern region of the DRC, Mr. Le Roy reported that the UN mission to vast African nation, MONUC, had provided technical and logistical support to the joint DRC and Rwandan military offensive aimed at ridding the region of the ethnic Hutu militia, Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR).

Now that the operation is over and Rwandan government forces have left the region, MONUC is tasked with helping the Government repatriate the remaining fighters of the FDLR, which has been involved in a recent flare-up of clashes mostly in North Kivu that caused some 250,000 civilians to flee their homes, in addition to the 800,000 already displaced by violence in recent years.

Mr. Le Roy was keen to highlight some peacekeeping successes, noting that the president of Timor-Leste, Nobel Laureate José Ramos-Horta, told the Security Council recently that without the UN mission, his country would have been in complete chaos.

“He even quoted that the UN mission got in Timor something like 75 [per cent] rate of approval and the Government had only 66 per cent,” said Mr. Le Roy, stressing that “In Timor the UN is performing fully its mandate. The president of Timor said that clearly in front of the Security Council the other day.”

Reporting on his visit to Haiti, Mr. Le Roy said that “100 per cent of the politicians I have met were all, all of them, praising the work of our UN mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, politically, on the humanitarian side [and] of course on the security side.”

In Cité Soleil, the impoverished neighbourhood of the capital Port-au-Prince that was formerly controlled by gangs, people in the street told the peacekeeping chief that thanks to MINUSTAH they could walk in the streets day and night.

Highlighting Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the Caribbean nation next week with former United States President Bill Clinton, as well as the upcoming donor conference for Haiti, Mr. Le Roy spoke of the “allure of hope” in the impoverished country.

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