The head of UN peacekeeping said he wants a full investigation of an ambush of UN-African Union peacekeepers in Sudan’s conflict-racked western Darfur region.
A peacekeeping patrol was ambushed earlier this month in the mountainous Jabel Marra area, which the Darfur rebel Sudan Liberation Movement loyal to Abdel Wahed Mohamed el-Nur says it controls. The group has denied any involvement in the attack, though the Sudanese army says rebels were responsible.
The head of UN peacekeeping, Alain Le Roy, told reporters he wanted to know who was responsible for the ambush of 63 peacekeepers. He added that the mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, had the right to go anywhere in the region.
“We will continue to go into Jabel Marra,” Le Roy said, calling the ambush “a very grave and serious incident.”
“I need of course a full investigation,” he said, adding that if he found UNAMID peacekeepers guilty of poor planning or other mistakes disciplinary action would be taken.
Sudan’s army has questioned how UNAMID lost its vehicles, weapons, money and communications equipment in the ambush without a fight. Le Roy said he wants to know if UNAMID failed to take a stand against the attackers when it should have.
“When you are attacked, the rules of engagement are very clear: you have the right to use your weapons in … self defense,” Le Roy said.
“If it’s the case that they (UNAMID) have not reacted, or if the mission was badly planned, then there will be … sanctions because that is of course unacceptable for the credibility of UN peacekeeping,” he said.
Reports from Sudan did not indicate any casualties.
Last month, Khartoum signed a ceasefire agreement with the most militarily powerful of Darfur’s divided rebel groups, the Justice and Equality Movement, and another group this month. But violence continues and some rebels have criticized the idea of signing peace deals with Khartoum.
The United Nations estimates that as many as 300 000 people have died in Darfur’s humanitarian crisis, sparked by a brutal counter-insurgency campaign in 2003 to quell rebels demanding more of a share in wealth and power.
More than 2 million were driven from their homes and the International Criminal Court last year issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur.
Senior UN peacekeeping official Susana Malcorra also responded to an internal audit that said UN missions in several world trouble spots had neglected proper security procedures and financial controls, exposing the world body to unnecessary risks.
The report by the UN watchdog the Office of Internal Oversight Services, covering 2009, found fault with operations in a series of countries but focused especially on Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq. It also touched on sexual impropriety by UN officials abroad.