Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a statement criticising the United Nations and the African Union’s plan to limit the UN’s role in protecting civilians in Sudan, stating it will threaten civilians in Darfur.
HRW has reported that Darfur continues to threaten civilians as government and rebel fighting continues in the Jebel Marra region when the UN peacekeeping force (UNAMID) had focused on protecting civilians since 2018. In this region, civilians are forced to flee for their lives, there are continued violence and heightened risks of sexual assault.
UNAMID has proven effective in providing shelter, water, collection points, farming areas and migration routes for the displaced within the Jebel Mara region, since November 2019.
Following the ousting of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s former President, in April 2019, the new Sudanese government requested that the UN delay the withdrawal of its peacekeeping force, UNAMID. This was followed by a request that the Security Council authorise a “follow-on” peacekeeping mission to cover the whole of Sudan. This request further detailed the need to “support the repatriation and reintegration of internally displaced people and refugees,” “protection of civilians,” and “human rights monitoring and capacity building of national institutions.”
HRW reports that the peacekeeping mission is due to withdraw by October 2020 following increasing pressure to downsize from Sudan’s previous government as well as Western governments who wish to reduce their own costs. Currently, the mission maintains 14 bases and 4,040 military personal and 2,500 police which are set to withdraw by the end of October 2020.
Kenneth Roth, an executive director for HRW, stated on the matter;
“The UN Security Council should recognize that Darfur requires a far more gradual withdrawal and keep a UN security presence on the ground to actively protect civilians. Past and ongoing violence there means civilians can’t trust Sudanese security forces alone and still look to peacekeepers for protection.”
“The Security Council should instead establish a follow-on mission that supports the nationwide transition to rights-respecting civilian rule and peacebuilding, but that also recognizes the need to continue to protect civilians in Darfur.”
The UN Security Council will consider the matter on 17 March. In anticipation of this, HRW has called the Security Council to include “armed police units that could protect civilians, quick reaction peacekeepers to respond to threats as they arise, and mobile human rights monitoring teams based in Darfur”.
Read Human Rights Watch statement here.