Armed robbers ransack UN compound in Darfur

UN recently handed over assets worth about $41 million to local authorities for civilian use

A Sudanese boy rides a donkey past a UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) armoured vehicle in the war-torn town of Golo in the thickly forested mountainous area of Jebel Marra in central Darfur on June 19, 2017. The town was a former rebel bastion which was recently captured by Sudanese government forces. - The United States' top envoy in Sudan visited Golo on June 19, 2017 on the second day of his four-day trip to Darfur to assess security in the war-torn region as the UN prepares to downsize its 17,000-strong peacekeeping force. 
His visit also comes just weeks before President Donald Trump's administration decides whether to permanently lift a two-decades old US trade embargo on Sudan. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)
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The UN on Saturday night said a compound it had jointly used with the African Union in Sudan’s western region of Darfur was overrun and looted by armed attackers, as the country is still reeling from a political crisis.

The base in Al Fashir, one of Darfur’s largest towns, was run by the United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and handed over to the local authorities on December 21.

“The camp was stormed and looted. The Sudanese authorities should have protected it,” said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN Secretary General.

“We are deeply concerned about the safety of UNAMID staff members, who are still in the camp,” Mr Haq said.

The UN did not say what had been stolen in the raid.

In past incidents, UN vehicles, food, furniture and money have been stolen in attacks on various missions in the sprawling region, including on the World Food Programme.

UNAMID was also providing the local communities with much needed chemical disinfectants and water purifiers to meet the drinking and cooking needs for hundreds of thousands of citizens.

A handout picture released by the United Nations and African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) shows a peacekeeper from the Nepalese Special Forces patrols in Jawa village, in East Jebel Marra (South Darfur) on March 18, 2011 the area is controled by the Government Forces but most of the population fled some days ago due to the clashes. AFP PHOTO/HO/UNAMID/ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN (Photo by ALBERT GONZALEZ FARRAN / UNAMID / AFP)

The UNAMID said the mission has so far handed over some $41 million in assets and equipment to local authorities for civilian use, but 10 of the 14 sites reportedly have suffered theft and destruction.

Sudan is a member of the UN and has an obligation to protect staff of the world body and other international agencies operating in their country.

The UN mission has worked for 13 years in Darfur to protect civilians uprooted by a full-blown conflict.

The battles erupted in 2003 after ethnic groups took up arms against the Sudanese army and militias that supported it, accusing the regime of former autocrat Omar Al Bashir of discrimination, racism and neglect.

Al Bashir, who was deposed by popular uprising in April 2019, has been accused by the International Criminal Court of war crimes and genocide in the conflict that led to the death of more than 300,000 people and displacement of over two million, UN estimates show.

Volker Perthes, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Sudan, said in a message in Arabic on his Twitter account that the equipment stolen was to protect civilians by the Darfur authorities.

“I am deeply disappointed by the looting of the former UNAMID base in [Al Fashir] last night. The protection of civilians should be a priority for the state and for armed organisations as well — even those that have been involved in looting,” he said.

A demonstrator holds a sign reading 'Darfur is bleeding' during a protest demanding civilian rule in the Sudanese capital's twin city of Omdurman. Photo: AFP

UNAMID completed its mandate on December 31 2020, nearly four months after the transitional government in Khartoum signed a peace deal with a coalition of rebel leaders to end conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

But the evacuation and repatriation of UNAMID premises in Darfur will continue until June 2022.

The recurrent looting of international organisations in Darfur further causes serious disruptions to the work of officials and workers providing life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable people.

One year after the signing of a landmark peace agreement to end the armed conflict in Darfur, Sudanese people in the region still complain against what they call marginalisation as their families haven’t yet received better economic, social and education services.

The raid on the UN compound in Darfur came as the country’s stability and unity are in danger.

More mass protests are planned in the capital Khartoum against the coup carried out by military leaders on October 25 and an agreement they announced on November 21 to reinstated Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdouk.

Updated: December 27, 2021, 8:26 AM