Unamid probes violence
A United Nations-African Union (UNAMID) assessment team is heading to a North Darfur community that was the scene of clashes between Sudanese national security forces and civilians that resulted in the deaths of three people.
The UNAMID force which has a highly regarded Rwandan contingent is one of the largest and most difficult peace-keeping missions in the world. It was deployed at the beginning of 2008. Rwanda has over 3,200 officers and men in Darfur, and about 463 police officers under UN missions in Haiti, Sudan, South Sudan, Liberia and Ivory Coast.
The force is tasked with protecting civilians, promoting an inclusive peace process and helping ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance across Darfur, an arid region on Sudan’s western flank that has been the scene of fighting between Sudanese Government troops and their allied militias and rebels for over eight years.
The North Darfur administration and other parties have alleged that UNAMID had a role in the deaths of civilians during the Kabkabiya incident, which the UN mission has denied.
The statement from the Joint Special Representative and head of UNAMID, Nigerian diplomat Ibrahim Gambari, says the violence erupted during demonstrations in Kabkabiya over the planned relocation of a local market, reportedly without prior consultations with the communities involved.
Later, the demonstrators gathered outside the UNAMID compound, where the situation grew “tense” as some individuals attempted to force their way into the camp. As a result, three civilians, one UN national staff member and one peacekeeper are currently being treated in UNAMID’s hospital.
During a visit to Kabkabiya, Gambari offered his condolences for the loss of life as a result of the clashes as well as the mission’s mediation support to resolve the conflict.
He also expressed his sadness at the violence that took place in what he described as an otherwise peaceful and diverse community.
“The authorities of the Kabkabiya area must be more sensitive to the needs of the various communities who deserve to lead productive and secure lives,” the mission’s head said, adding that any decisions which may affect how people live should be taken with care and after consultations with those affected.
“UNAMID has confirmed that it did not attempt to harm any member of the population during the demonstrations in front of its camp this past Tuesday and Wednesday,” the mission stated.
UNAMID is involved in the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur signed in July 2011 with the support of the African Union and international community.
The Doha Document has been rejected by Darfur’s three largest rebel groups who fear marginalisation with the growing fatigue among advocacy groups and main international actors. But the Rwandan peacekeepers, according to UN officials, have played a pivotal role in overcoming these reservations through community outreach activities. The Rwandan peacekeepers are involved in monthly community projects in both Darfur and Haiti, in which they take part in activities that support the local communities. Recently, they handed over a school they had constructed to a local community in Darfur.
Indeed, when the international community, through the United Nations, commended the countries which have contributed troops to peacekeeping missions as a remarkable expression of solidarity on peace and security, Rwanda came up for special mention.
Speaking at the Indonesia Peace and Security Centre in Sentul, which trains soldiers before deployment as peacekeepers, Mr Ban Ki-moon described UN peacekeeping as a “symbol of hope” for communities across the world affected by conflicts.
As a whole, East Africa has played crucial role in bringing peace to conflict-stricken parts of the world with peacekeepers from Rwanda serving in the Darfur region of the Sudan and in Haiti; Kenya, Uganda and Burundi have soldiers in Somalia under the UN-backed African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Also in Somalia are troops from Djibouti and Ethiopia.
In Rwanda’s case, the Certificate of Commendation was awarded to Lieutenant Theoneste Nkurunziza of the African Union – UN hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) for his exemplary service and courage under fire was cited a proof of the commitment and professionalism of the contingent.
Rwanda’s Lt. Gen. Patrick Nyavumba is the Force Commander of UNAMID.
In a lecture entitled UN Peacekeeping: Challenges and Opportunities for Indonesia, the Region and Beyond, Mr Ban said, “When conflicts rage, children are out of school for years – until our peacekeepers come and make it safe to go back to class.
“They help build bridges – physical bridges to cross rivers, and bridges of trust across communities. They reclaim land poisoned with mines… peacekeepers provide free medical care to local people.”