South Africa peacekeeper killed, three wounded in Sudan’s Darfur region

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A South African peacekeeper was killed and three others wounded in an ambush in Sudan’s western Darfur region yesterday, the international force UNAMID said, two weeks after four Nigerian peacekeepers were killed.

Unknown assailants ambushed a UNAMID convoy 10 km outside Hashaba North in north Darfur, UNAMID said in a statement. The convoy of 16 vehicles, led by the UNAMID Deputy Force Commander, contained police, military and civilian staff and was on its way to investigate reports of violence in Hashaba village.
“The Government of South Africa condemns, in the strongest terms, the ambush and attack on a UNAMID convoy in North Darfur,” the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said in a statement. “The South African Government is deeply disturbed by the incident and extends its deepest condolences to the bereaved family.”

The South African Government is working closely through the Embassy in Khartoum, with the United Nations, the UNAMID Force Commander, and the Sudanese Government to ensure that the remains of the South African soldier are repatriated soon and that the wounded South African troops receive immediate medical treatment, DIRCO said.

The African Union/United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the world’s largest peacekeeping mission, was deployed by the United Nations and the African Union in the arid western territory of Sudan after fierce fighting in 2003 which forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

Martin Nesirky, spokesman for UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said that, “The secretary general expresses his condolences to the government of the Republic of South Africa, UNAMID and to the family of the fallen peacekeeper”.

Earlier this month, four Nigerian peacekeepers were killed and eight wounded in an ambush near El Geneina in western Darfur. A total of 43 peacekeepers have been killed since UNAMID was set up, according to the force.

Violence in Darfur, where mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, has ebbed from a 2003-04 peak but international efforts to broker peace have failed to end the conflict.

The International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and other officials to face charges of masterminding atrocities in the region where Sudanese troops and allied Arab militias have sought to crush the rebellion.

Estimates of the death count vary widely.

Sudan’s government signed a Qatar-sponsored peace deal with an umbrella organisation of smaller rebel groups last year, but the major factions refused to join.

DIRCO said it was “disconcerting that the peace deal reached between the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) and the Sudanese Government last year has yet to take effect and that most opposition and rebel movements remain outside of the peace processes, perpetuating instability in Darfur. South Africa has taken note that renewed talks have begun this week in Doha, Qatar and calls on all parties to engage constructively in the process to bring Darfur and Sudan as a whole to peace.”

The South African National Defence Force has approximately 2 000 soldiers deployed on peacekeeping and peace building initiatives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic. It has been involved in more than 15 peace support operations, involving the deployment of around 2 500 military personnel. Deployment areas for these operations have included the DRC, Burundi, Sudan, Côte d’Ivore, Liberia, Nepal, CAR, the Comoros, and Mozambique.