December 29th, 2007 07:29 EST
Hybrid force for Darfur set to deploy on 31 December
The United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), set to become the world body’s largest peacekeeping operation with some 26,000 personnel at full strength, is poised to officially take over on Monday from the AU force currently on the ground trying to quell the violence and suffering in the war-wracked region of western Sudan.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and another 2.2 million forced to flee their homes, living either as internally displaced persons (IDPs) or as refugees in neighbouring Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR). UN officials have described Darfur as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
The transfer of authority from the AU Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) to the new hybrid operation will take place during a signing ceremony at UNAMID’s headquarters in the North Darfur capital of El Fasher on 31 December, the UN said in a news release today. At that time, AU troops will exchange their green headgear for the UN’s blue beret.
Authorized by the Security Council on 31 July, UNAMID will have some 20,000 troops and more than 6,000 police and civilian staff at full strength.
There are currently more than 9,000 uniformed personnel on the ground, including 7,000 troops and 1,200 police serving with the AMIS, which was established in 2004 to help bring peace to Darfur, as well as UN soldiers and police officers serving as part of the UN’s “heavy” and “light support packages” deployed to support AMIS over the last year.
At the same time, UN officials have cautioned that some of the critical equipment necessary to support the troops is still lacking – particularly air assets such as helicopters – and have appealed to Member States to close this critical gap.
The new mission is headed by the AU-UN Joint Special Representative for Darfur, Rodolphe Adada, and is mandated to protect civilians where possible, facilitate humanitarian assistance and help provide a secure environment in which peace can take root.
Along with UNAMID’s deployment, the UN and AU are continuing efforts on the political front to broker a comprehensive peace accord between the Government of Sudan and Darfur’s many rebel movements.