Khartoum — The Darfur rebel Sudan Liberation Movement-Mani Minawwi (SLM-MM) has strongly criticized the UN-AU Peacekeeping Mission in the region (UNAMID) for airlifting government soldiers who were wounded in a battle last week, a charge peacekeepers admitted but contended that it falls under their mandate.
In a press release extended to Sudan Tribune on Monday, SLM-MM's official spokesperson Abdulla Mursal strongly condemned UNAMID for medevacking Sudanese government soldiers who were injured in a battle his group claims to have won near Shangil Tobaya area in North Darfur on 9 November.
In that battle, SLM-MM claimed that their forces killed and injured more than 100 soldiers of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and that the rest of the ambushed force fled the area leaving behind the majority of their military equipments.
Mursal said that following the battle, UNAMID responded to a request by the government to airlift injured soldiers and used two of its helicopters to accomplish the mission. The rebel official said that his group condemns in the strongest terms what he described as UNAMID's negligence of its mandated duty of protecting civilians and monitoring the situation in favor of protecting the regime's forces and providing all sorts of support to them.
"This action is not befitting of the mission's mandate and code of duty" Mursal said.
He recalled that his group previously condemned several instances in which UNAMID assisted the Sudanese army. He also alleged that the mission previously used its trucks to transport fuel and military supplies to the Sudanese army. "We warned UNAMID before against going too far in supporting forces of the regime and allowing it to use the mission to serve its purposes and agendas" the statement said.
SLM-MM said it wishes to convey a strong message to the UN Security Council, the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union and all international and regional actors that it is necessary to take action against the failings of the mission and its lack of impartiality in order to prevent it from becoming a part of the conflict should it continues to support the Sudanese army.
In response, UNAMID has confirmed that it airlifted injured government soldiers from the battlefield to the capital of north Darfur state, Al-Fashir , to receive medical assistance but argued that the action is in line with its mandate.
A press release issued by UNAMID said that it airlifted, upon request, injured combatants from its Rwanbatt team site to El Fasher for further treatment. "The provision of medical assistance to wounded combatants is a core requirement of international humanitarian law, which falls under UNAMID's mandate."
The mission said that in the past it has provided such medical assistance to wounded combatants from both sides of the conflict "with due respect to the principles of neutrality and impartiality"
UNAMID also warned against the escalation of violence in Darfur saying it has become a matter of grave concern to the UN and AU. The mission's Acting Joint Special Representative Aichatou Mindaoudou called on the government as well as armed movements to accept that further violence "is a dead end that only harms the people of Darfur."
The peacekeeping official urged all sides to cease hostilities immediately, respect international human rights and humanitarian law, and engage fully in the peaceful settlement of Darfur conflict.
Darfur conflict has largely receded in recent years from its pinnacle of 2003-2004 but violence resurged in recent months especially in some areas of north Darfur where government-backed militias have committed a number of atrocities against particular ethnic populations.
UNAMID is mandated under the UN chapter seven to protect civilians in Darfur and support the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, an agreement signed last year between the government and one rebel group to end the 9-year conflict which the UN says it has led to the death of 300,000 people and displacement of more than 2.7 million.