It’s time for international peacekeepers to prepare to leave the Sudan’s Darfur region, said the Sudanese ambassador to the United Nations, Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem,
The war in Darfur is over, he said, and with peace in sight, the U.N.-African Union Peacekeeping Mission (UNAMID) should plan for an exit strategy.
Ambassador Abdalhaleem was responding to a new report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon that accuses the Sudanese government of harassing international peacekeepers and limiting their movements.
Sudan-born policy analyst Omer Ismail criticized the ambassador’s statement.
“It is a comment of an irresponsible man who is representing an irresponsible government,” he said, adding that war is still raging in Darfur. “There was no peace agreement that was signed by both sides to end the hostilities,” he said.
The report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon accurately describes the situation in Darfur, Ismail said.
“I think the report by the secretary-general…characterizes the situation in Darfur correctly and also [describes] the government of Sudan correctly by saying that [it] is intimidating the peacekeepers,” he said.
said the harassment includes bureaucratic delays, according to The secretary-general’s report, as well as firing warning shots at UNAMID forces and sending army helicopters to fly low overhead.
The actions, as alleged in the report, contravene the Status of Forces Agreement signed by the Sudanese government and the United Nations.
“They (the government) delay the permits that are supposed to be given to the U.N. troops to move around the conflict zone. They are declaring certain parts of Darfur off limits. And that is in direct contradiction with the status of troops deployment agreement,” Ismail said.
The ambassador’s call for the departure of international peacekeepers from Darfur came as Sudan prepares for its first multi-party elections in 24 years in April 2010.
“Besides UNAMID that is deployed in Darfur, there are 10,000 U.N. troops deployed in the south and that is a conflict zone as well. So if they expel all the U.N. troops out of the country, who is going to provide security for the people? Who is going to be there when the election takes place?” Ismail asked.
Registration of Sudan’s 20 million potential electors began on November 1 and was supposed to close at the end of the month.
Sudan’s National Elections Commission has announced November 22 that it was extending the deadline for voter registration for seven days.
A gimmick, said Ismail, and it may not be enough to satisfy the opposition.
“The (opposition) parties fear that the NCP, the National Congress Party of President (Omar al-) Bashir, already started rigging the election by not allowing enough time for registration or giving enough attention to the remote areas where registration should take place,” Ismail said.
The opposition and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the dominant party in the south, have said they would boycott the elections if a package of democratic laws crucial to the vote was not drafted and passed by November 30.
They face a dilemma, said Ismail, over whether to boycott or participate in next year’s election, knowing that President Bashir’s National Congress Party will rig those elections.