UN-AU peacekeeping force carries out anti-banditry patrols in Darfur

In spite of the overall calm security situation, the United Nations-African Union (AU) peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s war-ravaged Darfur region is continuing its patrols in the face of banditry activities.
The UN News Centre says the military forces and police of the mission, known as UNAMID, have conducted dozens of patrols in and around villages sheltering internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Sudanese police reported renewed fighting between two tribes over a disputed water point last week.
UNAMID has been distributing 45 000 litres of water a day to the Zam Zam camp, which continues to receive new waves of IDPs. Distributions began on 11 March to support non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to help those who have just arrived at the camp.
The mission intends to continue its distributions – which total nearly 500 000 litres to date – until a long-term solution is found.
For its part, the UN Children`s Fund (UNICEF), in conjunction with aid partners and the Government of Sudan, has dug nine shallow wells and drilled three boreholes as water sources for the Zam Zam camp.
Sudan decided to suspend 13 NGOs on 4 March, immediately after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Al-Bashir for alleged war crimes. The operations of three national NGOs have also been suspended.
In a letter sent to the leaders of the so-called Group of 20 (G20) nations ahead of their summit next week, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concerns about the expulsion of the aid groups, which assist nearly five million Darfurians in need, over half of whom are IDPs.
Addressing the General Assembly in an informal meeting yesterday, Ban said that in the wake of the Government`s decision to expel the NGOs, the UN and Sudanese authorities have agreed to assess the situation in three states in Darfur to identify aid gaps. He stressed that capacity on the ground is insufficient to sustain relief activities in both the short and medium term.
Last week, a senior UN humanitarian official called on the Sudanese government to respect existing agreements and its own laws on the operation of relief groups in Darfur, with the ousting of the 13 aid agencies resulting in “significant” threats to the dependent population.
“We want to engage in transparent and productive dialogue with the Government based on these laws and agreements,” Rashid Khalikov, Director of the New York section of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told the Security Council.
He noted with additional concern that on 15 March, al-Bashir spoke of the possible departure of all foreign humanitarian organizations in Sudan in a year`s time, even if the violence and displacement in Darfur continues.
An estimated 300 000 people have died and another 3 million have been displaced in the western region of Sudan, where rebels have been fighting Government forces and allied Arab militiamen, known as the Janjaweed, since 2003. Around 4.7 million people in the region depend on lifesaving aid.
Khalikov said the expulsion of the 13 organizations had been followed by an increase in violence against UNAMID and aid groups, along with the seizure of humanitarian assets by the Government.
In a related development, Major General Pagan Jung Thapa, Force Commander of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), visited UNAMID headquarters this week to meet with his UNAMID counterpart, General Martin Luther Agwai, and with AU-UN Joint Representative Rodolphe Adada to discuss issues of cooperation and collaboration.