Sudan: Report of the Secretary-General on the deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (S/2008/659)

UN Document
Originally published
View original


I. Introduction

1. The present report is submitted pursuant to paragraph 17 of Security Council resolution 1828 (2008) of 31 July 2008, by which the Council requested me to report every 60 days on developments on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), the political process, the security and humanitarian situation in Darfur, and all parties' compliance with their international obligations. The report covers the months of August and September 2008 and provides an update on developments which occurred in early October 2008.

II. Developments relating to UNAMID

2. As at 10 October 2008, the total strength of UNAMID uniformed personnel was 10,527, including 8,579 military personnel (8,142 troops, 285 staff officers, 113 military observers and 29 liaison officers), and 1,948 police personnel (1,808 individual police officers and one formed police unit of 140 personnel).

3. Recruitment of civilian staff stood at 2,564 of 5,557 authorized posts, or 46 per cent of full capacity. This figure is comprised of 654 international staff, 1,704 national staff and 215 United Nations Volunteers. In addition, there are 42 staff on short-term temporary assignments from other missions deployed to UNAMID. Meanwhile, 153 international civilian staff and 29 United Nations Volunteers have been selected and are on travel status.

III. Deployment of UNAMID

4. During the reporting period, the 190-member advance party of the first Ethiopian battalion arrived in Kulbus on 16 August, accompanied by a force protection company of 170 personnel. Preparations for establishment of the Nigerian Level II Hospital in Sector West began with the deployment of 96 personnel to El Geneina on 13 September. On 15 September, the advance component of 72 drivers and 4 officers from the first Egyptian battalion arrived in Um Kadada, where the battalion will be located. These Egyptian personnel subsequently flew to El Obeid and moved their contingent-owned equipment, through "self-drive", from El Obeid to Um Kadada on 22 September. A rotation of the 196-member Gambian defence company located at UNAMID Force Headquarters in El Fasher was also completed on 2 August.

5. Over the course of the remainder of the year, a considerable number of military units, as well as two formed police units, will be deployed to Darfur. The units expected to deploy in October will include the 348-strong main body of the Bangladeshi multi-role logistics company, 148 members of the Egyptian Transport Unit, the 40-personnel advance party of the Pakistani engineer company, and the main bodies of the first Ethiopian and Egyptian battalions (with 440 and 632 personnel, respectively). Deployment of formed police units from Nepal and Indonesia is also expected to be completed in October.

6. In addition, the 10 infantry battalions already deployed to Darfur will commence their rotations in October (four each from Nigeria and Rwanda, one from Senegal and one from South Africa). These troop-contributing countries continue to work towards bringing these units to United Nations standard strength of 800 personnel and ensuring that they are deployed with the required equipment. This would result in an increase of 1,468 troops.

7. Thus far, Rwanda has informed the United Nations that the strengthened and upgraded battalions are ready to deploy and that all necessary equipment has been acquired, with the exception of armoured personnel carriers, which have been procured and are scheduled to begin arriving in Rwanda in November. In accordance with standard practice, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Department of Field Support subsequently dispatched staff to Rwanda for a predeployment visit, which will provide final confirmation of readiness to deploy. Although the visit had not been completed at the time of drafting, it is expected that a positive report will result from the assessment team in the movement of these troops and their equipment to Darfur by airlift in the coming weeks, with the assistance of the United States of America, under the auspices of the Friends of UNAMID.

8. Preparations are also under way for the deployment of additional units in November and December. These troops will include the Pakistani Level III Hospital and its 156 personnel, the 289-strong main body of the Pakistani engineering company, the 150-member Bangladeshi Sector Reserve Company, and 545 Ethiopian troops (the 125-member Transport Unit, the 120-member Sector Reconnaissance Company, and the 300-strong Multi-role Logistics Unit). It is also expected that the Egyptian formed police unit will deploy at the end of 2008.

9. This would amount to 4,216 new troops being deployed by December 2008, for a total of 12,795 military personnel (presuming that the infantry battalions already on the ground rotate at the United Nations strength). In addition, the remainder of the year will see an increase in the deployment of police with three formed police units (of 140 officers each). Taken together, these deployments will bring the total of UNAMID military and police personnel to 14,823, or 60 per cent of the total authorized strength by the end of 2008.

10. The Council will note that the conditions required to achieve 80 per cent deployment of UNAMID by the end of 2008 included a major increase in the flow of contingent-owned equipment into Darfur, and a significant enhancement of the engineering capabilities required to prepare for the arrival of incoming units and personnel. While concerted action continues in both of these areas, recent developments have made it clear that the originally envisaged target of 80 per cent will more likely be achieved only by the end of March 2009.

11. One of the main challenges to UNAMID deployment, and specifically the movement of contingent-owned equipment into Darfur, is the 1,400-mile supply line between Port Sudan and Darfur. The local capacity for ground transportation is limited; there are only a few local contractors available, which caters to UNAMID and other United Nations system agencies and humanitarian organizations, and the cash-based payment system in Darfur has required the United Nations to change its financial transaction procedures. In addition, the environment of heightened insecurity had a direct impact on UNAMID efforts to move contingent-owned equipment into Darfur. Concerned with safety, some local contractors refused to transport UNAMID assets or sought to reduce financial risk by allocating illmaintained vehicles and inexperienced drivers to these duties, particularly for the drive between the United Nations logistics base in El Obeid and Darfur. This contributed to the slow movement of contingent-owned equipment into Darfur.

12. The land transportation of heavy equipment (e.g., medical and engineering material) is particularly problematic for other reasons, intrinsic to Darfur. Rains in August and September made the southern route from El Obeid to Nyala impassable for those months. During that period, UNAMID was able to move three convoys involving 165 vehicles through the northern route between El Obeid and El Fasher. One of the convoys led by UNAMID police with the Government force protection took eight days to complete the 800-km journey from El Obeid to El Fasher, as low-bed trucks carrying heavy equipment were too wide for the deep, sandy, unpaved desert trails, and releasing a vehicle stuck on the road took as long as 24 hours. The 40-vehicle convoy was further delayed when it was joined at the Kordofan-Darfur border by more than 100 World Food Programme (WFP) trucks, which had stood idle for three weeks, reportedly owing to the lack of escorts.

13. Despite these difficulties, movement by road continues to be the most important means of transporting equipment into Darfur. Detailed analysis shows that it is the most cost-effective means for moving a high volume of heavy material into the area of operations - assuming that sufficient trucking capacity is available and route security is assured. In this context, new commercial contracts for road movements have been put in place and the Government agreed to provide security escorts for UNAMID road convoys as frequently as every 48 hours, with the expectation that convoys would take place every 24 hours in due course. In addition, with the end of the rainy season, both the northern and southern routes from El Obeid to Nyala will be utilized, which will result in an increase in the volume of movement.

14. To further improve the main supply routes between Port Sudan to Darfur, UNAMID has put in place additional commercial contracts for road, rail, and air transportation of contingent-owned and United Nations-owned equipment directly into Darfur. Both the Department of Field Support and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations are also working with the Friends of UNAMID to make arrangements for the airlift of troops and contingent-owned equipment directly from troop-contributing countries into Darfur - as will be the case for the Rwandan troops. In addition, selected troop and police contributors have been requested to undertake either self-deployment of all contingent-owned equipment and personnel if they are in the region, or the direct airlift of such equipment from the port of origin to Darfur.

15. Expediting the direct airlift of contingent-owned equipment from troop- and police-contributing countries to Darfur would require that the Government provide blanket clearance for flights arriving in the Sudan, to avoid the prohibitively timeconsuming requirement to clear the cargo of each flight individually. This is particularly important, since most major airlift operations involve a large number of aircraft. In a welcome development, the Government of the Sudan agreed, in a 26 September letter, to provide blanket clearance for airlift operations, in response to a request from the Department of Field Support. The blanket clearance arrangement will first be applied to airlift the contingent-owned equipment for the Pakistani Level III Hospital, which will be flown into Darfur in two phases in time for the hospital to be operational before the end of the year.

16. Nevertheless, clearing the backlog at El Obeid will likely take up to six months. Rail transportation of UNAMID assets, while providing an alternative, is limited in capacity: the railroad has a single track from El Obeid to Nyala, and it takes four weeks to move 50-60 containers from Port Sudan to Nyala. It is also necessary to augment the reception capacity of airports in Darfur, including the expansion of apron space and deployment of material handling equipment, to be able to support a sustained increase in the airlifting of contingent-owned equipment.

17. In addition to movement of contingent-owned and other equipment, improving the UNAMID engineering capability remains the second major condition for accelerating deployment. To that end, plans were put in place to accelerate the deployment of UNAMID engineering units (from China, Egypt and Pakistan), the transfer of some military engineering capacity from the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) and finally to include a light field engineering capability as part of the deployment of all new battalions. As described below, after a period of planning and approvals from the troop-contributing countries, these initiatives are only now being put in place.

18. Among the three UNAMID engineering units, the Chinese engineers are fully deployed and operational. The Egyptian engineering unit is deployed, though not yet operational, since it is focusing on repair of damaged contingent-owned equipment. With regard to the engineering unit from Pakistan, an advance team of six is in place in El Geneina, preparing for the arrival of contingent-owned equipment and personnel, which will be completed by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the temporary transfer to UNAMID of 90 soldiers from the Chinese engineering unit in UNMIS is due to commence as soon as formal arrangements are finalized. Finally, the deployment of light field engineering capabilities as elements within arriving battalions is likely to begin in early 2009, taking into account the time required to finalize preparations for the deployment of these units. Efforts continue to deploy all of these engineering capabilities as a high priority.

19. With respect to commercial engineering resources, UNAMID has identified a number of arrangements to augment its capacity for camp construction, maintenance, expansion, and other critical engineering tasks. The mission will place greater emphasis on local and regional vendors. In that context, UNAMID has carried out a vendor conference in Nyala to encourage the participation of local firms in UNAMID tenders. UNAMID has also initiated internal capacity-building, especially in the areas of contract management. In addition, the mission, in close collaboration with the Department of Field Support, is finalizing a memorandum of understanding with the United Nations Office for Project Services and putting in place a contract for project management of engineering works, which is to be concluded in the coming months. These efforts do not preclude the possibility of having to mobilize additional external resources, given the scope of engineering requirements anticipated for UNAMID deployment and operations.

20. As for units expected to deploy in 2009, the Sudanese authorities confirmed, in writing, their acceptance of the Thai battalion and the Nepalese units in the progress report submitted by the Government of National Unity to the African Union Commission on 17 September, which I transmitted to the Security Council on 18 September. Anticipating that these troop-contributing countries will agree to take the deployment forward, we will work with them to have these units deployed as soon as possible and most likely in early 2009.

21. Efforts are also continuing to confirm the readiness of agreed policecontributing countries to deploy formed police units. To that end, representatives from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the African Union and donor countries visited Burkina Faso, Mali, Uganda, and Togo at the end of July. A similar predeployment mission also visited Senegal. Some of these police-contributing countries will be in a position to deploy formed police units in early 2009, while others are in the process of procuring requisite equipment.

IV. Tripartite mechanism for the deployment of UNAMID

22. As part of United Nations efforts to expedite the deployment of UNAMID, Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, travelled to Khartoum for a tripartite meeting on 7 October, at which the Government, the African Union Commission and the United Nations discussed the logistical challenges facing UNAMID deployment and the steps being taken by each of the three parties to ensure expeditious deployment and effective functioning of the mission. A number of critical issues were discussed in detail and courses of action for all three parties agreed, as described below.

Freedom of movement

23. White helicopters. To ensure that UNAMID helicopters, as well as those being used for international humanitarian activities in Darfur, are clearly distinguishable, the Government has instructed the armed forces and the civil aviation authorities to ensure that Government helicopters are no longer painted white and are distinct from those used by international actors.

24. Helicopter crash investigation of 29 September in Nyala (see para. 46). It was agreed that UNAMID and the International Civil Aviation Authority would contribute to the review of the 29 September crash of the helicopter operated by a UNAMID contractor.

25. Threat notification. The Government will continue to share information with UNAMID relating to security threats - without prejudice to UNAMID operations.

Air operations

26. Rehabilitation of airports. The Government gave its unequivocal approval for the rehabilitation of El Fasher and Nyala airports and the new airport in El Geneina which would be upgraded so as to accommodate AN-124-type aircrafts. The United Nations committed to taking forward these efforts as expeditiously as possible.

27. Times of use of Darfur airports. The Government confirmed its approval for use of Darfur airports by UNAMID from 0700 hours to 1900 hours and confirmed that instructions to this effect had been circulated to Civil Aviation and National Security authorities as well as the Walis in Darfur.

28. Around-the-clock operations. It was further agreed that 24/7 operations would be gradually implemented and that UNAMID would contribute the necessary equipment and support.

Flight clearances

29. Blanket clearance. The Government agreed that blanket clearance would be granted for flights carrying contingent-owned equipment and other UNAMID materials into Darfur. One "Form 1" would be completed for each phase of such an airlift operation. Equipment would then be subtracted from the single "Form 1" as it arrived in the Sudan until the airlift is completed.

Convoy protection and support

30. Government escort (from El Obeid to Darfur). The Government confirmed its commitment to escort any UNAMID convoys as frequently as every 48 hours. It was further agreed that the frequency of convoys would be increased to one every 24 hours so long as convoys were comprised of 30 vehicles or more. It was further agreed that the frequency of convoys would be increased to one every 24 hours in due course.


31. United Nations support. The United Nations agreed to support the efforts of the Government of the Sudan to rehabilitate portions of the railway to the extent possible.

Visa processing

32. Government facilitation of visas. The Government reiterated its commitment to continue expediting the processing of visas for UNAMID personnel and stated that a Government focal point would be appointed in this regard. Customs clearance

33. Single clearance at point of entry. The Government agreed that UNAMID equipment, goods and materials would undergo Customs clearance at one time only, which would be at their point of entry and would be undertaken simultaneously by Customs, National Intelligence and National Security officials.

Government liaison

34. El Fasher Office. The Government confirmed the establishment of a liaison office in El Fasher to be led by a Major General. The Office would ensure local implementation of decisions taken at a national level. Liaison at the sector level is anticipated.

Military deployments

35. Self-deployment of selected units. The United Nations, the African Union and the Government agreed to support the possible self-deployment of the second battalions from Egypt and Ethiopia.

Local construction capacity

36. Utilizing local and regional capacities. The United Nations undertook to use local and regional contractors and vendors to the fullest extent possible. It was noted, however, that requirements were so vast that resources from outside the region may need to be mobilized.

37. In concluding the meeting, the Government, African Union and United Nations delegations agreed on the importance of convening tripartite meetings on a regular basis in order to monitor the implementation of all agreed actions and to maintain momentum with regard to the deployment of UNAMID. Particular emphasis was given to the rapid implementation at all levels of the decisions taken.

38. In this regard, it was agreed that the next tripartite meeting on UNAMID would take place within four to six weeks in Khartoum and that the agenda would be developed in advance by UNAMID.