The United Nations Security Council on Monday extended for another year the UN peacekeeping mission in Sudan’s western area of Darfur to protect civilians and oversee aid delivery despite calls by Khartoum to withdraw the $1.1 billion operation.
A joint African Union-United Nations Mission (UNAMID) has been deployed in Darfur since 2007 with a mandate to stem violence against civilians.
Law and order have collapsed in much of Darfur, where mainly non-Arab rebels took up arms in 2003 against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination.
A withdrawal of UN forces was objected to by the 15-members of the Security Council which unanimously adopted a resolution stressing that it would negatively affect the conditions in Sudan.
The British ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, told reporters that “Now is not the time to cut and run. Sudan has the greatest number of internally displaced people in Africa. And 2014 saw the worst level of suffering in the last 10 years.”
The council expressed deep concern at the serious deterioration in the security situation in Darfur, “in particular, through a marked escalation of hostilities between government forces and rebel armed groups.”
“UNAMID must continue to give priority in decisions about the use of available capacity and resources to the protection of civilians ... and ensuring safe, timely and unhindered humanitarian access,” the council resolution said.
According to the United Nations, more than 300,000 people have been killed, some 4.4 million people need aid and about 2.5 million are displaced.
“Sadly, given the very high level of violence and very large numbers of displaced, UNAMID’s presence is needed now more than ever,” US Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told the council.
Sudan’s Deputy UN Ambassador Hassan Hamid Hassan said it was “completely wrong” to say Darfur was engulfed in warfare. He said the government of Sudan was committed to working with the peacekeeping mission, but that there were several areas in Darfur that were now stable and troops could be withdrawn.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 and 2010. The warrant for Bashir’s arrest in 2009 included charges of war crimes for ordering a violent crackdown on a rebellion in Darfur
President Bashir left South Africa’s Johannesburg on June 15 - after attending the African Union Summit - and headed back to Sudan’s capital Khartoum despite a South African travel ban temporarily preventing him from leaving the country, pending a decision on whether or not he would be extradited to the ICC based in The Hague.
South African website News24 reported on June 16 that Sudanese troops surrounded South African peacekeepers in the western region of Darfur until Bashir returned to Khartoum, leading to the South African government allowing the Sudanese leader to leave the country unhindered. South Africa has denied the claims.