The United Nations Security Council has agreed to end the UN and African Union’s long-running peacekeeping mission in Darfur when its mandate ceases on December 31.
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The Council on Tuesday adopted resolution 2559 that closes UNAMID and hands over responsibility for maintaining peace and security in the ravaged region to Sudan’s transitional government.
The termination of the mission - deployed since 2007 and which had 16,000 peacekeepers at its peak - was requested by Sudan’s government and recommended by the AU and United Nations.
Crowds of Darfuris, however, had protested against the closure outside the mission’s headquarters in the sprawling camp of Kalma, in Nyala, capital of South Darfur state earlier this month.
Britain welcomed the adoption of the resolution but said it regretted that the Council had not been able to agree on allowing UNAMID’s 8,000 peacekeepers to continue to provide support during its drawdown.
“All they will be able to do is pack their bags and wait to leave Darfur,” said its ambassador to the UN, Barbara Woodward.
Darfur was the scene of a bitter conflict that broke out in 2003 between African minority rebels, complaining of marginalization, and forces backed by the government of now ousted president Omar al-Bashir.
The United Nations estimates the fighting killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million others.
The conflict has largely subsided over the years, apart from occasional clashes between pastoralists and displaced people settled in camps.
In October, Sudan’s transitional government signed a peace deal with a coalition of rebel and political groups including from Darfur.
The agreement covered pressing issues around security, land ownership, transitional justice, power sharing, and the return of people who fled their homes because of fighting.
It also provides for the dismantling of rebel forces and the integration of their fighters into the national army.
Only two groups have refused to sign the accord.
Sudan’s transitional government has agreed that Bashir will face the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
Bashir, who was ousted in April 2019, has been jailed in Khartoum’s intensive security Kober prison.
In the October peace deal with rebels, Sudan’s government agreed to set up a special court for crimes in Darfur, and that Bashir should also stand trial before that.