The African Union-United Nations hybrid mission in Darfur (UNAMID) says hundreds more troops – including close to 300 South Africans – will arrive in the strife-torn region within the next two months in an effort to boost the protection of civilians there.
The UN News Centre says the additional troops are expected to arrive by March from Egypt, South Africa, Senegal and Bangladesh. Later this year, more will arrive from Nepal, Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia.
Tanzania has also announced it will send an infantry battalion of about 900 soldiers. In addition, the east African state is to send an advance party, including engineers, to help expedite the deployment of peacekeepers there.
Institute for Security Studies peacekeeping analyst Henry Boshoff says the SA contingent forms part of a currently approved deployment (Operation Cordite). The troops should have been deployed some time ago but could not be moved into the theatre as there were no facilities for them.
Cabinet has previously approved the deployment of 23 staff officers and military observers as well as 577 soldiers and 165 police for Cordite.
UNAMID was created by the UN 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 between insurgents, government forces and “Janjaweed” militiamen broke out in 2003.
The News Centre adds that the UN, African Union and representatives of the government of Sudan met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, earlier this week to discuss ways of accelerating the deployment of UNAMID to its authorised strength of 26 000 military and police personnel.
At the end of the meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding on air operations was signed by Sudan and UNAMID to enable the latter to make a more effective use of the infrastructure of Sudanese airports to speed up the process.
In December, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that UNAMID deployment had been delayed by continued fighting between the parties on the ground and the slow provision of units and equipment previously pledged to the mission.
However, as the mission marked its first anniversary earlier this month, Ban confirmed that troop levels have exceeded 60% of the full authorized strength.
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 authorized military personnel.
In addition, on 5 January, two new contingents of Nigerian police officers trained in high-risk operations joined the mission, bringing the total number of Formed Police Units (FPUs) serving with the mission to five, following the earlier arrival of units from Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nepal.
Meanwhile, Refugees International says UNMIS, a separate mission deployed in southern Sudan, must also be more proactive in protecting civilians.
It says Sudan is entering a volatile period in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the risk of violent is acute. The CPA, signed in 2005, ended a 21 year civil war.
“The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) was deployed with a mandate to observe and monitor CPA implementation, and is therefore both ill-equipped and ill-disposed to engage in civilian protection efforts,” the group says in a statement. UNMIS has an authorised strength of 10 000.
“Given the heightened risk of violence, the UN Secretariat must insist that UNMIS concentrate on proactive measures to prevent conflict and protect civilians. The mission must develop a more comprehensive and inclusive protection planning mechanism. Finally, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations must establish clear rules of engagement to empower UNMIS troops”.
The organisation also made some policy recommendations, including:
· The UN Secretariat must conduct a broad review of the UNMIS military and civilian protection role, emphasize the need for UNMIS to take a more proactive stance towards protecting civilians, and provide guidance to military peacekeepers on protection tasks.
· DPKO must renegotiate agreements with troop-contributing countries to include a civilian protection role.
· UNMIS senior leadership must bring together all agencies — its own units, UN agencies, and NGOs — involved in protection activities in the north, the contested areas, and the south to identify areas of concern, prioritize the deployment of military and civilian protection staff, and develop concrete strategies to prevent and respond to protection crises.
· DPKO must provide UNMIS forces with a clear explanation of the rules of engagement so that troops are informed and empowered to use force proactively under difficult and stressful conditions.