Near verbatim opening remarks by UNAMID Joint Special Representative, Jeremiah Mamabolo, at a Press Conference held in Khartoum
(10 July 2017; 14:00 hours; Marawi Hall, UNDP Building, Gama’a Street)
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this gathering, which is my first since I assumed the position of UNAMID’s Joint Special Representative/Joint Chief Mediator in April this year. At the very outset of this briefing, I’d like to highlight the vital role of our press/media counterparts in the collective effort to reach peace in Darfur and the wider Sudan—all of you present here play a significant part in building trust, giving hope and encouraging reconciliation amongst the parties to the ongoing conflict.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Republic of the Sudan on the formation of its new Government in May 2017 as well as the newly appointed officials of the Darfur State Cabinet. I assured them of UNAMID’s continued support. I also welcome the accession of SLM-Second Revolution to the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD) and the ongoing Darfur Internal Dialogue and Consultations (DIDC) process.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As you are aware, the UN recently adopted Security Council Resolution 2363 on 29 June 2017. I would like to share some of the highlights with you.
In the past three years or so, the armed conflict that gave rise to the need for a peacekeeping presence in Darfur has become, broadly, localized to the presence of the holdout movement, Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) in Western Jebel Marra. However, it is a fact that some 2.7 million people continue to live in displaced persons’ camps; militia groups continue to be active and inter-communal violence still occurs across the region.
The overall situation in Darfur remains fragile and, therefore, UNAMID’s strategic priorities remain the same—firstly, we are here to protect civilians as well as facilitate humanitarian access, while ensuring the safety and security of humanitarian personnel; secondly, we continue to mediate between the Government of Sudan and non-signatory armed movements; and, lastly, we support mediation of inter-communal conflicts.
But, I cannot deny that significant developments have taken place in Darfur and in Sudan, in the past decade, which have necessitated changes in the way we function as a Mission on the ground. UNAMID, therefore, is in the process of a comprehensive reconfiguration, a change in the concept of its operations, which I will attempt to summarize for you here, as succinctly as possible, today.
Broadly speaking, the Mission is in the process of transforming its operations based on a two-pronged approach which will combine peacekeeping and peace building or stabilization efforts. We will concentrate traditional peacekeeping tasks around the greater Jebel Marra area, keeping in mind the ongoing instability and resultant displacement in the vicinity, as well as recurrent inter-communal violence. The focus here will be on emergency relief, addressing protection needs and the safe destruction of explosive remnants of war.
In other areas across Darfur, UNAMID will be working in greater collaboration than ever before, with the Government of Sudan and the UN Country Team to apply a more peace building-oriented approach.
In order to successfully implement this new, two-pronged focus, as well as reinforce the agility and proactive nature of its operations on the ground, the Mission is in the process of restructuring its uniformed personnel in two phases. Currently, we are in Phase 1 of the reconfiguration process which is expected to be completed in six months. At the end of Phase 1, we will be reducing our authorized ceiling for uniformed personnel to 11, 395 military and 2,888 police. Simultaneously, we will be closing 11 team sites across Darfur.
A review of Phase 1 will be conducted in January 2018, following the implementation of Phase 2, which involves a further reduction of military personnel to 8, 735 and police personnel to 2,500 by 30 June 2018, will be effected. These further reductions are, of course, subject to change depending on the outcomes of the Phase 1 review.
We are currently in discussions with the Government of Sudan to open a temporary operating base in Golo, Central Darfur, and further facilitate our access to other areas across the region.
Dear brothers and sisters,
I would now like to brief you on some of our achievements, ongoing projects and challenges during my tenure as JSR.
Overall, across Darfur, UNAMID troops and police have demonstrated a proactive, robust posture in protecting civilians. But, as you will agree with me, peacekeeping is not an easy task. Just as recently as 31 May 2017, we lost a peacekeeper in a carjacking attempt in Nyala, South Darfur.
Another example of this is the ongoing situation in Sortony. UNAMID and humanitarian partners continue to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to some 21,000 IDPs gathered in the vicinity of the Mission’s Sortony Team Site in North Darfur since mid-January 2016. Our peacekeepers play a key role in addressing challenges and concerns here, as well as in efforts to mitigate continued tensions between communities at the site; it also supports humanitarian actors.
On its part, UNAMID remains committed to supporting the Government of Sudan authorities on improving rights and access to justice in Darfur. Additionally, the Mission will, in collaboration with the UN Country Team and donor partners, continue to provide technical support to transitional justice mechanisms as well as work closely with the National Commission for Human Rights, and parties to the conflict. In addition, UNAMID commends the progress made with parties to the conflict, including the Government of Sudan and the armed movements, ensuring the avoidance of recruiting children into armed conflict.
Our Police component aids the above goals on a daily basis through their confidence-building patrols, community policing initiatives and increased coordination with the Sudanese police forces. Such activities empower and encourage social ownership of as well as responsibility for community. Our military peacekeepers further reinforce the Mission’s core protection of civilians mandate through daily patrols and stabilization activities across Darfur. With our new mandate and through intensive collaborations with the Government of Sudan, we hope to be able to establish a framework for sustainable peace in this troubled region.
Here, I would like to highlight two examples. The first is UNAMID’s support for the demobilization of 494 ex-combatants from DDPD and SBA signatory movements in West Darfur, in partnership the Sudan DDR Commission and the World Food Programme. The second is UNAMID’s intensive collaboration with the National Mine Action Centre that resulted in Forobaranga, West Darfur, being the first locality in Darfur to be declared free of explosive remnants of war.
The common thread in both these examples of community safety milestones are fruitful, efficient partnerships with relevant UN Country Team partners and Government of Sudan agencies. This unified approach is the way forward for us, as per our mandate.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would also like to assure you that, through my role as Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, we remain fully engaged with mediation and reconciliation activities aimed at preventing and mitigating inter-communal conflicts across Darfur. As part of its peace building efforts, the Mission will seek to work more closely than ever with the Government of Sudan to support its reconciliation efforts on those conflicts that have the potential to derail the improving security situation in Darfur. A dynamic partnership between UNAMID, the Government of Sudan and the UN Country Team is envisaged which will focus on supporting the host government to address the root causes of communal violence which are primarily related to the access, use and management of natural resources.
Finally, we all know that the only sustainable solution to the conflict in Darfur depends on a negotiated political settlement pursuant to the Road Map; and, in this regard we continue to support all parties to the conflict to reach an agreement on cessation of hostilities. We will continue to work towards ensuring that the kind of conflict which occurred in mid-May, does not recur.
As we enter a new phase, we all need to supplement and complement our efforts towards bringing about lasting peace and development in Darfur. I count on your support in this endeavor.
It remains for me now to thank you for your attention and time. I hope to be speaking to you more often.