Days after the UN Security Council decided to reduce the number of peacekeepers in Darfur, Sudan’s Second Vice-President instructed the ministry of defence to take part in the protection of displaced people returning home.
The head of the Darfur Peace Office met with Vice-President Hasabo Mohamed Abdelrahman on Monday, who instructed the ministry of defence to protect civilians in the process of voluntary return in Darfur.
Camp leaders in Darfur cautiously welcomed the presidential directive. Speaking with Radio Dabanga Sheikh Tahir Ismael also called for credibility, honesty and impartiality in the voluntary return process.
The leader of the Kassab camp for displaced people in Kutum, North Darfur also demanded that Unamid, the joint peacekeeping mission of the African Union and United Nations, would monitor the voluntary return.
“The government’s decision should not be merely a slogan and political consumption. There were dozens of returning displaced people from Kutum locality who recently returned to their villages of origin. They were beaten or shot, which forced them to return to the camps. They have lost confidence in the government and its decisions.”
He said that the displaced people in Darfur live in difficult humanitarian and health conditions, pointing to a lack of employment opportunities, rise of prices, and prevention of displaced farmers from land cultivation or fetching firewood.
Ismael: “I am concerned that hunger may occur, in the event people do not cultivate their land this season.”
In Zalingei, the Commission for Voluntary Repatriation and Resettlement and the state government have agreed on a range of programmes that promote voluntary repatriation and return of displaced people to their villages in Central Darfur.
Governor Mohamed Ahmed Gadelsaid announced that they plan for the voluntary return of more than 2,000 displaced people to their villages before the rainy season starts. “The state government is planning to absorb more than 7,000 returnees. Unamid has confirmed that it would withdraw from all the states of Darfur, leaving one gathering centre for all Darfuris in Zalingei.”
The Security Council on Friday extended the mandate of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping operation in Darfur until the end of June next year, but reduced the number of troops deployed in the field with an eye towards the mission's eventual exit.
The decision was unanimous as 15 Council members determined that although the security situation has improved in Darfur, the long-running conflict there remains a threat to international peace and stability.
By the terms of the resolution, the Council will cut the troop strength of Unamid from the current 8,735 to 4,050 personnel, while maintaining its police strength at the current level of 2,500 personnel.