Concerns are rising in Sudan’s Western region of Darfur of a security vacuum as the African Union and UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur (Unamid) starts to leave the once war-torn region.
The exit comes after the UN Security Council last week unanimously agreed to terminate the mandate of Unamid and grant powers for civilian protection to Khartoum.
Unamid withdrawal means Sudan will work with a smaller component of the UN, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (Unitams) from this month.
On one hand, the decision elevated Sudan’s image in the eyes of the international community, coming just days after the US government formally removed Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
But for Darfur, considered one of the world’s most violent regions since 2003, where at least 300,000 people were killed another four million forced into mass camps for the displaced, the assurance has been taken with scepticism.
On Sunday December 27, hundreds of displaced people living in Kalma camp in South Darfur resumed their sit-in, demanding that Unamid should not be withdrawn on December 31.
Unamid was created in 2007, to protect civilians. Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled in April 2019, was later indicted by the International Criminal Court for overseeing crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide including numerous unlawful attacks, pillage, rape, forcible transfer and torture.
“Unitams is a political and technical mission more than a military mission to protect civilians, especially in Darfur. Unamid’s main tasks were to protect civilians and maintain security and stability in the Darfur region,” Khalid Abdul Aziz, a Sudanese political analyst, told The EastAfrican in Khartoum.
He said there is little chance the new mission will perpetuate any weaknesses of Unamid as it will mostly work with institutions in Sudan, which it will aim to strengthen.
“The new mission will support the transitional period in all parts of Sudan by strengthening the human rights situation in Sudan and supporting the peace process and all issues related to civil and democratic transformation in Sudan,” Mr Aziz said.
Unamid’s withdrawal came after Sudan’s Transitional Government signed peace deals with some of the groups that had fought in Darfur.