Sudan accused UN-African Union peacekeepers of cooperating with Darfur rebels and supplying them with vehicles, a move which could undermine the mission’s ability to operate in the restive west of Sudan.
The world’s largest UN-funded peacekeeping mission (UNAMID) is at 75% of its total 26 000 strength but says its job to secure the remote area is difficult in the absence of a peace deal between Khartoum and rebels who took up arms in 2003.
South Africa currently has 1000 military police and soldiers deployed there.
They have struggled to win the trust of the rebels, the army and the more than 2 million terrified Darfuris who fled their homes to slum-like camps surrounding urban centres.
A Sudanese armed forces spokesperson told Reuters eight UNAMID lorries carrying food and fuel had been taken by the Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) but the force had not reported them missing and denied they were stolen.
“The army considers this is coordination between UNAMID and the JEM. This is taking lorries and giving them to JEM,” an army spokesperson told Reuters.
“This is considered the extension of military cooperation to JEM,” he added.
UNAMID said the accusation was “totally unfounded” and that they had reported the carjacking of the lorries which belonged to a contractor the same day it happened.
“We reject these accusations that we could be anything but impartial,” UNAMID official Kemal Saiki told Reuters.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir last year for war crimes in Darfur. This week it will rule on whether genocide charges could be added.
Bashir rejects the ICC’s authority and has embarked on a mass media campaign portraying him as the strong leader standing against Western intervention.
UNAMID was created as a compromise after Khartoum rejected a UN resolution authorising a strong UN force to deploy in Darfur. A combination of internal bureaucracy, logistical problems and suspicion from Khartoum has delayed the force’s deployment.
UNAMID needs cooperation from the government and the rebels to be able to operate efficiently in Darfur.
The United Nations estimates some 300 000 lives were lost in the humanitarian crisis sparked by Sudan’s counter-insurgency. Khartoum puts the toll at 10 000.
Bashir is running in Africa’s largest country’s first democratic elections in 24 years in April.
Pic: UUAMID peacekeepers