UN Moves Toward Ending UN-AU Peacekeeping in Sudans Darfur

UNITED NATIONS—The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to move toward ending the joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Sudans vast western Darfur region and replacing it with a civilian mission focusing on the countrys democratic transition.

The council didnt set a date for the end of the mission, known as the United Nations–African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), in the two related resolutions that were approved in writing on the night of June 3 under new rules initiated because of the COVID-19 pandemic and formally adopted at a Security Council meeting in the morning of June 4.

The resolution, adopted by a vote of 15–0 extends the current 6,500-strong mission for six months until Dec. 31, 2020. It says the council will decide by then on “the responsible draw-down and exit of UNAMID,” taking into account a special report from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the chair of the African Union Commission.

That report, which is due by Oct. 31, should assess the situation on the ground and include the impact of Sudans peace process on the security situation in Darfur and the capacity of the Sudanese government to protect civilians, which is UNAMIDs primary mandate, the resolution says.

The other resolution, also adopted by a 15–0 vote, establishes a new political mission, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan to be known as UNITAMS, for an initial period of one year. It has the mandate to assist the country in its political transition toward democratic governance and in protecting and promoting human rights and sustainable peace.

It says UNITAMS should also assist the government in “peace-building, civilian protection, and rule of law, in particular in Darfur,” provide technical assistance in drafting a constitution, and support peace negotiations and implementation of any peace agreements if asked.

The Security Council asked Guterres to swiftly establish UNITAMS, with a view to reaching its full operational capacity as soon as possible so it can start delivering on its mandates no later than Jan. 1, 2021.

The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when ethnic Africans rebelled, accusing the Arab-dominated Sudanese government of discrimination. The government in Khartoum was accused of retaliating by arming local nomadic Arab tribes and unleashing them on civilian populations—a charge it denies.

In recent years, as the result of a successful government military campaign, the rebellion has been reduced to a rebel Sudan Liberation Army faction headed by Abdul Wahid Elnur in Jebel Marra.

In July 2018, the Security Council voted to dramatically cut the UNAMID force in response to reduced fighting and improved security conditions. The target then was to end the mission on June 30, 2020.

The Darfur conflict took place under the three-decade autocratic rule of former president Omar al-Bashir, during which Sudan was convulsed by bloody civil war and rebellions, not only in Darfur but in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states. Al-Bashirs rule ended in April 2019 when the military ousted him after mass street protests by a pro-democracy movement that began in late 2018.

A power-sharing agreement signed in August 2019 between the military and protesters created a joint civilian-military ruling “sovereign council,” but the civilians are struggling to assert authority in the face of the militarys power.

In October 2019, the Security Council voted unanimously to keep UNAMID in Darfur for another year in hopes the new civilian-led transitional government can restore peace.

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