Khartoum — Two rebel movements in Darfur urged the United Nations Security Council to keep the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (Unamid) active in the region. Its number of peacekeeping troops would be reduced this month.
In a letter to the UN Security Council, Jibril Ibrahim, leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and Minni Arko Minawi, leader of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) said: "Unamid is considered the conclusive guarantee for the protection of civilians in Darfur, particularly that the government of Sudan renews its attacks in the region."
"Despite the conformations that there was a decline in the direct military confrontations in Darfur, this does not mean the conflict has ended or that the conflict would not escalate again. This is evident in the clashes which took place in May in North and East Darfur," they noted.
On June 14, the African Union (AU) and the United Nations announced proposed 44 per cent and 30 per cent reductions in their troop and police presence in Darfur as a step towards an eventual exit, a senior UN peacekeeping official told the UNSC.
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations El-Ghassim Wane said in the recommendation of changes that the "reconfiguration" is "an important milestone towards the completion of [the Unamid] mandate".
The two rebel leaders also explained that Unamid's presence in Darfur would help protect the civilians and achieve peace and justice for the victims of violence.
"The government's calls for the withdrawal of the mission from the region is an attempt to remove the main international entity operating on the ground to monitor and resolve the standing conflict, and therefore, we hope the UNSC would continue its strong support for the mission in Darfur and also mandate it to take all necessary measures to fulfill its mandate in field of peacekeeping," they said.
On Wednesday, the UNSC discussed UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres' report on Darfur which endorsed two-phase reduction of the mission's military components in the region.
Human Rights Watch commented this week that civilians will be left at risk of becoming victims of continued violence in the region. "The planned cuts reflect a false narrative about Darfur's war ending," said Daniel Bekele, senior director for Africa advocacy at HRW. "There is no reason to believe that government attacks on civilians and other abuses have ended since the same security forces remain in place; they have never been prosecuted for their crimes and can't be relied on to protect civilians."