Sudan says military council suspends decree on UN sites

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Sudan’s transitional military council has suspended implementation of a decree demanding that the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur hand over its premises as part of its withdrawal next year, a Sudanese diplomat said Friday.

Omer Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed told the UN Security Council that the transitional military council also decided on Thursday to withdraw all armed forces and other security forces from sites the government has already received from the peacekeeping force known as UNAMID.

The United Nations has opposed the transitional military council’s decree, saying under an agreement with the Sudanese government its facilities when handed over are to be used solely for civilian purposes.

Last July, the Security Council voted to dramatically cut the UNAMID force in the vast western Darfur region in response to reduced fighting and improved security conditions. The target for ending the mission is June 30, 2020, and Ahmed urged the council to keep to that timetable.

“We reject any attempt to postpone or suspend the exit of UNAMID given that there are no conditions, no justification or reasons for its presence,” Ahmed said.

Russia and China backed Sudan and urged the Security Council to stick to the timetable.

But Britain, Germany, South Africa, the United States and others raised questions about the impact on Darfur of the transitional military council’s crackdown on protesters last week that killed over 100 people and wounded hundreds more.

Earlier this week, the Security Council strongly condemned the violence and urged Sudanese authorities to immediately end the use of violence, respect human rights, and ensure justice and accountability.

A monthslong popular uprising against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year rule led to his fall from power in April, but there has been a standoff since then between the protesters and the transitional military council that succeeded him.

Britain’s Deputy UN ambassador Jonathan Allen told the council that his government and Germany are proposing “a technical rollover” to extend the UNAMID mandate, which expires June 30.

This “would provide time for progress on the broader political situation,” he said, and give time to resolve the issue of the handover of UNAMID sites.

South Africa’s UN Ambassador Jerry Matjila said “there is an urgent need for an assessment of the drawdown” of the UNAMID force, given the political situation following al-Bashir’s ouster.

UNAMID must also ensure that its assets are handed over to civilian authorities - not the military, he stressed.

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