UNAMID risks breaking promise in Darfur: report

KHARTOUM Mon Jul 28, 2008 10:08am EDT

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - The U.N.-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur risks becoming "the world's latest broken promise" unless it receives more international support and improves security with the troops it has, a group of 50 agencies said.

"Without more support, UNAMID is tragically doomed to fail," the Darfur Coalition spokesman Dismas Nkunda said in the 10-page report by Africa-focused agencies released on Monday.

The United Nations-African Union force known as UNAMID took over on December 31 from struggling African Union peacekeepers, who had largely failed to protect civilians and whom many in Darfur rejected as biased players in the 5-year-old conflict.

UNAMID, which was launched with much optimism after years of negotiations with the Sudanese government, currently has about 9,000 troops and police in Darfur.

At full strength it will be the world's largest U.N.-funded peacekeeping mission with 26,000.

But no new battalions have deployed, no attack or transport helicopters or other vital equipment have arrived, and containers full of UNAMID gear are sitting idle in Sudanese customs awaiting clearance.

Meanwhile attacks on the world's largest aid operation have escalated and banditry is rife even inside the main towns.

The Darfur coalition blamed delays in getting UNAMID fully operational on the government of Sudan and donors.

"The international community must urgently ensure that the force has the equipment and troops it was promised, and the Sudanese government must cooperate fully and quickly," the report said.

"UNAMID is in danger of becoming the world's latest broken promise," it added.

International experts estimate some 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million driven from their homes since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing Khartoum of neglect.

The report was critical of peacekeepers for failing to protect civilians from rape and attack with the thousands of troops already in Darfur.

"UNAMID could do more to prioritize key protection activities, and inconsistent interpretation of its mandate has hampered its impact on the ground," it added.

It recommended UNAMID conduct more regular patrols accompanying women collecting firewood or along main roads to prevent banditry, set up permanent presence quickly in the camps, and have more regular contact with Darfuris.

U.N. officials have said UNAMID needs a peace to keep and blame the lack of a political process for the deterioration in security.

The International Criminal Court this month sought an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for genocide and war crimes in Darfur. Khartoum does not recognize the court.

The coalition says Darfuris are running out of patience.

"When the AU soldiers were here they could not protect us. Now it's the same with UNAMID," said I.A. Suleiman in the report. "We are all living in danger yet we do not even expect that they can protect us."

While a protection force will not solve the situation in Darfur, failure to provide protection will condemn millions to violence, the report concluded.

(editing by Mary Gabriel)

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