Country Representative Urges Clear Exit Strategy in Mandate Renewal on Eve of ‘Promising’ Post-Election Phase
Any exit strategy for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) must be tied to concrete improvements in the situation of people on the ground, a top United Nations peacekeeping official told the Security Council this morning.
“When our efforts in this sense will have borne fruit, when the population will have been liberated from fear and violence, then it will be the time for us to disengage,” Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet said, emphasizing that, despite the encouraging negotiations carried out last year, the prospect for a definitive peace was “a vain wish in the current context”.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s latest report on Darfur (document S/2015/378), which recommends renewing UNAMID’s mandate unchanged for a year when it comes up for a vote this month, he said the text outlined a very serious security situation, the continued need for substantial humanitarian aid and limited progress in the peace process.
In addition, he described a deeply concerning increase in violent attacks against UNAMID and humanitarian personnel and the security situation’s devastating impact on innocent civilians, with at least 78,000 estimated having been newly displaced this year, much of it attributable to the Government’s military offensive “Operation Decisive Summer”.
Additional reports, he said, indicated some 130,000 additional displaced in areas of heavy fighting, thus impossible to verify, along with reports of indiscriminate attacks against civilians and other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. Intercommunal violence had also flared, as had criminality, with implications for humanitarian personnel and UNAMID.
Despite the difficult operating environment, he said, UNAMID and its Secretariat support remained resolute in its commitment to deliver on strategic priorities. Adequate responses to attacks and a proactive approach in protecting displaced persons were indicators of improvements brought about by changes in attitude, robustness and training.
In that regard, the most significant achievements in the reporting period were related to the establishment of protective areas in the vicinity of team sites, as well as the repelling of attacks against civilians, robust patrols, the escort of humanitarian missions during intercommunal clashes and the formation of protection committees with displaced persons.
On the civilian side, he said, the focus had remained on the streamlining of personnel and transfer of some of UNAMID’s mandated tasks to the United Nations country team, according to ongoing analysis.
The Joint Working Group on an overall exit strategy for UNAMID, he said, had not yet produced a conclusion, but the African Union/United Nations team had explored the idea of a “two-pronged approach” with the Government, premised on achievement of benchmarks endorsed by the Council and a political solution to the conflict.
A phased withdrawal from West Darfur, where there had not been significant fighting in the past two years, complemented by a handover of tasks to the Government and the country team, was also part of that approach, he said. Three other team sites in North and South Darfur, where the Mission’s presence was assessed to not be necessary, would also be closed.
Following Mr. Mulet’s briefing, the representative of Sudan, Hassan Hamid Hassan, voiced hope that the resolution extending the UNAMID mandate would include clear provisions on an exit strategy. He stressed Sudan’s full cooperation with the working group on ways of transferring responsibilities to the country team.
Sudan, he stressed, had not called for an immediate exit strategy for UNAMID but was seeking a gradual drawdown of the military component in areas where the security situation had improved. An exit strategy would also have the positive effect of encouraging recalcitrant groups to join the peace process.
He objected to Mr. Mulet’s depiction of a situation in Darfur that was fraught with danger, which he said was not a correct picture of realities on the ground. Instead of focusing on the cause of the tribal violence occurring in Darfur — which had existed since the 1950s — Mr. Mulet spoke only of the consequences, he added. In addition, he maintained that references to the Government’s use of banned weapons were not verifiable and should not have been included in the report.
Furthermore, he said, tribal violence should not be construed as clashes between the Government and armed groups. The Government’s operations against the armed groups had in fact helped bolster stability. Furthermore, during the reporting period, the Government had cooperated with the Mission on the issuance of visas in the majority of cases requested.
Sudan was on the eve of a promising phase following the presidential election in February, he said, adding that the new Government expected a resumption of national dialogue. The Security Council and the wider international community must step up their role in bringing groups who had not yet accepted the Doha Document into the peace and national reconciliation processes.
The Council, he said, should also work to strengthen the capacities of the country team to take over responsibilities from the Mission. He urged the international community to strengthen the Government’s efforts to bring about peace and reconciliation by lifting sanctions and cancelling the country’s debts.
The meeting began at 10:03 a.m. and adjourned at 10:40 a.m.