El Fasher — The United Nations-African Union peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (Unamid) expressed its concern today about allegations that the handover of team sites in North Darfur has been improper.
On 29 June, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2363 that renewed Unamid's mandate until 30 June next year. It also decided on a reduction of the peacekeepers "in two six-month phases while closely monitoring the situation on the ground".
More than a third of the nearly 19,000 Unamid military troops and police officers would be withdrawn.
In a statement today, Unamid emphasises that "its strategic priorities in Darfur remain the same-protecting civilians, facilitating access and security for humanitarian actors and working to ameliorate the root causes of communal conflict.
"Furthermore, moving forward, Unamid will take a two-pronged approach incorporating both peacekeeping and stabilization," the statement reads.
"In line with the mandate, the Mission is reducing the number of military, police and civilian personnel, and has earmarked 11 team sites for closure across Darfur."
The Mission further reports that four of its team sites have been closed to date: El Malha, Mellit, and Um Keddada in North Darfur, and Muhajeria in East Darfur.
Seven team sites are yet to be closed. These are Abu Shouk, El Tine, Habila, Foro Baranga, Tullus, Ed El Fursan, and Zamzam.
"Closed team sites have been handed over to the Government of Sudan or appropriate private parties as per lease agreements signed by the Mission," the statement concludes.
Rapid Support Forces
On Saturday, the Sudan Liberation Movement led by Minni Minawi and the Justice and Equality Movement issued a joint statement in which they condemned the handover by Unamid of its North Darfur sites in Mellit and El Malha "to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) government militia".
According to the two rebel movements, the handover is illegal, as the agreement signed between the Sudanese government and Unamid concerning the downsizing of the troops stipulates that any property left by the peacekeeping mission should be handed over to the local authorities, and is to be used for civilian purposes only.
The rebel groups state that the "RSF militia is currently using these facilities to undertake their notorious atrocities against innocent civilians". They have been informed that RSF paramilitaries have already detained more than 700 people in these two localities.
The RSF, Sudan's largest militia, functions as a regular force of the Sudanese government, following the Rapid Support Forces Act early this year, which integrates the militia into the Sudan Armed Forces, and provides for the commander of the RSF to be appointed by the President.
The RSF has led a number of brutal counterinsurgency campaigns, supported by aerial bombardment, against civilian populations in South Kordofan and in particular in Darfur since their creation in mid-2013.