18 February 2018

Sudan: South Darfur, UN, UNAMID to Plan Voluntary Return in the State

Nyala — The South Darfur government, the UN-AU peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (Unamid), and UN agencies in Sudan will cooperate to facilitate the voluntary return of the hundreds of thousands of displaced people in the state.

During a joint meeting in Nyala on Friday, the South Darfur government and representatives of the UN-AU peacekeeping Mission in Darfur (Unamid) and UN agencies in Sudan agreed to establish a joint committee.

This committee will develop a plan for voluntary returns and guarantee a secure and stable situation and social peace in the state, the Sudanese News Agency (SUNA) reported on Saturday.

Governor Adam El Faki said that Unamid translated the Strategy Matrix for the Development and Stability of South Darfur from Arabic to English, and delivered it to all UN agencies and organisations operating in the state, so that they can work according to the document.

Social peace

As for the joint plan for voluntary return, the governor said the issues that need to be worked out are security and stability, and social peace. The rule of law needs to be restored by boosting the capacity of the police in the state, as well as the capacity of the judiciary and the competences of the popular courts.

Another important issue concerns social peace in the region, which requires projects that will ease the tension between farmers and herders.

The voluntary return process will contain three kinds of projects. The displaced may return to their villages, the camps may be transformed into residential areas, or the displaced will be resettled in new town districts.

Security

The head of the Unamid South Sector, Berhanemeskel Nega, commented that security and stability are the top priority of the Mission in Sudan's conflict-torn western region.

He pointed out that Unamid's mandate is now building peace and stability in the entire region of Darfur, in addition to peacekeeping in Jebel Marra. and called for the involvement of displaced leaders and civil administration in the joint committee.

The development of the plan and the coordination of efforts are important elements in building peace and stability in the Darfur communities, Nega said. Hence the importance of a concrete plan at a specific time, developed by the South Darfur government, the UN, and Unamid.

South Darfur Police Chief Balla El Hussein called for temporary extra police support in the areas of voluntary return.

The youth among the displaced should be encouraged to join the police in their areas to secure the villages of voluntary return, he said.

Model villages

In February 2016, the UN and the government of Sudan signed documents worth $ 88.5 million in contributions from Qatar for development projects in all Darfur states over a period of nearly two years. In August 2017, Doha granted another $ 70 million for the construction of 'model villages' in Darfur.

Most of the Darfur displaced categorically reject returning home or relocation to model villages as they consider the situation far from secure enough to leave the camps.

In August last year, Khartoum started a massive disarmament campaign in Darfur in an attempt to stabilise the region.

Hand-over

In June last year, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 2363 that renewed Unamid's mandate with another year, yet with a reduction of more than a third of the nearly 19,000 Unamid military troops and police officers present in Darfur.

Unamid said in a press statement in September that a number of its team sites are handed over to the Sudanese government or appropriate private parties as per lease agreements.

The peacekeeping mission responded to claims by Darfur rebel movements that it had handed sites "to the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) government militia".

According to the armed opposition, the agreement signed between Khartoum and Unamid on the reduction of the peacekeeping troops stipulates that any property left by the mission should be handed to the local authorities, and is to be used for civilian purposes only.

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