[V]illagers in Darfur say their lives can scarcely get any worse if Sudan insists on international peacekeepers leaving their region. UNAMID, the joint United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur, was deployed seven years ago to stem violence against civilians during a civil war in which the Sudanese government was accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. With fighting still dragging on, UNAMID’s shortcomings have drawn criticism from the very people it was deployed to protect and Sudan has told it to devise an exit strategy.
Khartoum’s move elicited indifference rather than opposition in northern Darfur, where much of the violence now rages. “We won’t be affected if UNAMID leaves because it doesn’t play a significant role in protecting civilians,” said Mohamed Abdullah, a local civilian. “We only hear about UNAMID submitting reports. We don’t know what they do for us….
“Our lives are very difficult since the war began. We cannot grow crops except in a very small area because rebels and gangs come and loot our fields,” said Mohamed Ismail, a resident.Pointing to nearby mountains, Ismail added: “Just six kilometres from here, rebels and bandits dominate the region.”
The Darfur conflict, which erupted in 2003 when mainly African tribes took up arms against the Arab-led government in Khartoum, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced over two million, according to the United Nations.
Tabit was under rebel control for eight years of the war, with the government reasserting its authority in 2010. But much of that authority is nominal, with gunmen stalking dirt roads to attack military and civilian vehicles alike, preventing villagers from travelling even for healthcare…. With officials standing by during the government-organised press trip, it was difficult to speak freely about the alleged rape of 200 women and girls by Sudan’s forces in Tabit, highlighting the hurdles faced by UNAMID investigators. UNAMID’s conclusion that there was “no evidence” of the rapes triggered an outcry from rights activists. Khartoum had delayed UNAMID’s first visit to the area in early November and denied it permission to visit a second time…
Last month, an internal U.N. review said UNAMID had failed to provide U.N. headquarters with full reports on attacks against civilians and peacekeepers.The review was ordered after media reports alleged that UNAMID had covered up details of deadly attacks to avoid provoking the government. “UNAMID is something of a lost cause,” said a Sudan analyst with a conflict-monitoring organisation, asking not to be named.
Excerpts, War-weary Darfuris see grim future with or without UN peacekeepers, Reuters, Nov.25. 2014