Darfur blue helmets scaling up protection of civilians official says

27 April 2009With a “low-intensity” war continuing in Sudan’s Darfur region, the joint United Nations-African Union force (UNAMID) has increasingly prevented large-scale civilian disasters, the mission’s chief said today. With a “low-intensity” war continuing in Sudan’s Darfur region, the joint United Nations-African Union force (UNAMID) has increasingly prevented large-scale civilian disasters, the mission’s chief said today.“Our UNAMID teams are working around the clock to prevent killings, violence and new conflict from developing,” Rodolphe Adada told the Security Council in a regular briefing on Darfur this morning.The mission is now deployed in every part of Darfur, with two-thirds of its mandated military personnel in place, along with civilian police and civil affairs, human rights, political affairs officers and staff of the Darfur-Darfur dialogue, Mr. Adada said.“We are increasingly speaking with authority on the situation on the ground,” he stressed, citing UNAMID’s constant close contacts with all the parties and its close monitoring of the situation.He said the mission’s success has been modest, however, due to a lack of political progress, which alone could stop the bloodshed in the region, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million have been forced from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.“Darfur today is a conflict of all against all,” he said. The Government is still fighting rebel movements, but now the armed groups fight among each other and banditry and the breakdown of law and order have become endemic, Mr. Adada, who serves as UN-African Union (AU) Joint Representative, said.The most dangerous factors at the moment are the military engagement between the Government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the precarious relations between Sudan and Chad.He maintained that the situation has changed, however, from the period of the most intense hostilities in 2003-2004, when tens of thousands of people were killed. Since UNAMID took over command from the AU force on 1 January 2008, there have been approximately 2000 civilian deaths due to violence, or about 130-150 a month, he estimated.In comments to the press after the meeting, he told correspondents that “this is too many human beings.” However, Mr. Adada stressed, the toll had not only been scaled down from earlier periods, but UNAMID had actually prevented mass deaths from occurring in some instances, citing examples in which it protected civilians trapped between armed forces, in camps and in the midst inter-tribal clashes.Civilian officers had also stepped into other situation to promote reconciliation at the local level and, as a result, local agreements had helped stabilize many parts of Darfur.The mission still faced a raft of challenges, on the other hand, in addition to the frozen peace process. Not least of these was the unfilled need for military helicopters for mobility in treacherous situations.It was even possible that some of the 14 UNAMID peacekeepers who have been killed in action so far could have been rescued if such helicopters were available, he said at the press encounter following his briefing to the Council.The expulsion of 14 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) following the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir by the International Criminal Court (ICC) had also caused “a significant interruption” to essential supplies and services, though UNAMID did not have a mandate for humanitarian aid in Darfur.In other news on UNAMID, a UN spokesperson said that a team from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) arrived in Darfur yesterday to conduct an evaluation of the mission, as well as its challenges and constraints, over the next two weeks. The evaluation will be used in efforts to make the Mission more effective and to provide other missions with expertise gained from the UNAMID experience, the spokesperson said.Also, UNAMID’s Deputy Force Commander, Major-General Emmanuel Karake Karenzi of Rwanda, will soon be leaving his post and will be replaced by Major-General Duna Dumisani of South Africa, it was announced. read more