The joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission, tasked with protecting civilians in war-ravaged Darfur and quelling the violence in the Sudanese region, has commemorated its first anniversary.
The UN News Centre reports the hybrid force, known as UNAMID, marked the moment on 31 December as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon confirmed that troop levels have reached 60% of the full authorised strength.
The force was set up by the Security Council to protect civilians on the western flank of Sudan, 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.
One year on from transferring the task of suppressing the violence to UNAMID from the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), some 12 374 blue helmets are now in place across Darfur, which is 63% of the 19 555 military personnel authorised by the Security Council.
At full strength UNAMID would top the UN force in the Democratic Republic of Congo, MONUC, as the world`s largest peacekeeping operation.
“The Secretary-General applauds the efforts of UNAMID and troop-contributing countries in reaching this target in the face of serious difficulties, including the volatile security situation in Darfur,” Ban said in a statement.
“To ensure that the Mission continues to grow and reach full strength, troop- and police-contributing countries will have to work together with the UN to expedite the deployment of all outstanding capabilities,” Ban said while underscoring the importance of the continued cooperation of the government of Sudan in achieving full deployment.
Ban further urged parties to the conflict to work with the UN-AU Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, Djibril Bassolé, “towards a comprehensive political solution” and again expressed his concern that civilians continue to suffer from the “savage conflict” and that both UNAMID and humanitarian personnel remain under threat in the absence of serious dialogue.
The mission’s website notes that “while an all-inclusive peace agreement has yet to be achieved; UNAMID’s dedicated work has facilitated humanitarian relief, local conflict resolution, and security so as to establish and strengthen conditions that can enable the people of Sudan to resolve this tragic conflict.”
It also acknowledged the efforts of its predecessors, saying “former AMIS soldiers, police officers, together with their civilian colleagues serving in UNAMID, have worked tirelessly under difficult and often dangerous circumstances to sustain a presence throughout Darfur.”
South Africa has 600 soldiers and 165 police in Darfur as part of its Operation Cordite.