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UN approves measure to improve Darfur peacekeeping

April 3, 2014

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council on Thursday approved a resolution aimed at improving its peacekeeping mission in Darfur as violence surges and hundreds of thousands flee.

The joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in the troubled western Sudan region has the second-highest budget of all U.N. peacekeeping forces, at more than $1.3 billion a year, but it has been criticized for underperformance.

“It has the largest gap between the resources that are put into the mission and the effect it has had on the ground,” Britain’s U.N. ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant, told reporters. “What we’re trying to do with this resolution is give it the best chance of success and the best chance of protecting civilians in the region.”

Darfur has been chaotic since 2003, when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The U.N. has said an increase in violence this year among multiple armed groups has displaced almost 200,000 people.

“It’s a difficult mission for a number of reasons,” Grant said. “The security situation has always been difficult. The relationship with the host government in Khartoum is difficult. It is a hybrid mission between the U.N. and the African Union, and that has proved difficult.”

At times, members of the 19,000-strong peacekeeping force have been stopped and stripped of their weapons and vehicles, and “there have been numerous instances where we do not believe they have been robust enough in fulfilling their mandate of protecting civilians,” the ambassador said.

The council resolution aims to streamline the joint peacekeeping force’s functions, and it urges member states to address the “critical need” for military helicopters to respond to crises across the vast region.

The United Nations says 300,000 people have died in the conflict and 2.7 million have fled their homes. This month, more than 30 human rights and civil society organizations called for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on the fifth anniversary of his indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

The U.S. this month called on the Sudanese government to stop blocking the peacekeeping force’s operations, including the delivery of humanitarian aid. The Security Council on Thursday expressed “deep concern” about such delays.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the joint U.N.-African Union special representative for Darfur, told reporters that the current situation is “very regrettable,” especially as momentum had been building toward a government-launched national dialogue for peaceful solutions to the fighting.

“The time has come to totally abandon the military option,” he said, saying both the Sudan government and the rebel groups have to accept that 11 years of grinding violence will not bring an end to the crisis.

Sudan’s representative acknowledged the worsening situation but told the Security Council that his country hopes “this year will be a pivotal year.”

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