28 January 2016

South Sudan: Former UN Official Slams Failure to Protect Darfur's Refugees

RFI spoke with the former head of the United Nations in Sudan, Dr. Mukesh Kapila, who has slammed the UN over its failure to protect civilians in Darfur, where 34,000 people have been displaced by violence in the past two weeks.

The UN urged Sudan on Wednesday to allow more aid into Western Darfur. Dr. Mukesh Kapila, who formerly worked as the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Sudan, said that this wasn't enough. He didn't mince his words.

"Something clearly needs to be done in terms of providing assistance, but civilians need protection," he said. "We have UN and African Union peacekeepers who have been there for years now. Their mission costs more than a billion dollars a year. And I can't figure out what on earth they are doing."

Kapila has a history of speaking out against the UN and about the joint UN and African Union mission in Sudan, UNAMID. When he condemned the international organisation's failure to prevent genocide in Darfur, his whistleblowing cost his job. Yet he hasn't stopped.

"Since they [UNAMID] got there, the violence has gotten even worse," he said. "It begs the question whether these peacekeepers are an alibi for the Sudanese government and whether they are doing any good at all."

UNAMID has faced a lot of criticism over the years and the war in Darfur has dragged on for over a decade. The latest round of fighting broke out on 9 January when an unidentified group attacked the village of Mouli. Residents fled. So did others from nearby villages.

In the last two weeks, about 19,000 displaced persons went to North Darfur and another 15,000 fled to Central Darfur, for a total of 34 thousand displaced. Many of them are women and children.

Kapila said that the numbers may be even higher and that these civilians had already undergone "terrible suffering". He warned of worse.

"The techniques used by the Sudanese military are of great concern," he said. "They have a reputation for attacking defenceless civilians, not using the rules of war and using rape as a weapon of war."

Mohamed Badawi, the Monitoring Programme Coordinator for the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, concurs with Kapila's assessment. He reported on the displacement of people from the village of Mouli earlier this month and said the situation was dire.

"There is no protection for civilians," Badawi said. "With the ongoing military clashes, many people are displaced every day as they leave their villages to go to the more protected towns. I call for the end to these clashes and I call on the UNAMID mission to take their mission seriously and protect the civilians".

RFI made numerous attempts to contact UNAMID and they were unavailable to comment.

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