Source: Ministry of Defence Rwanda
Peacekeepers in the joint United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), in western Sudan, will open fire and defend themselves if provoked again, the UNAMID Force Commander, Lt Gen Patrick Nyamvumba, stressed yesterday. This comes shortly after he led an operation which succeeded in returning a UNAMID patrol that had been blocked by the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebels, for two days in northwestern Darfur.
Lt Gen Nyamvumba flew to the region on Wednesday to pay tribute to his troops, at their base, in Umm Baru, North Darfur. On Sunday and Monday, a UNAMID patrol of 55 personnel, mainly Senegalese troops, was blocked by JEM rebels. The Force Commander called in reinforcements to surround the 100 JEM forces who continued to hold two UNAMID civilian staff and one police advisor. The rebels later released the three other UNAMID staffers.
Lt Gen Nyamvumba told The New Times that: “As I told the BBC at the time, we were determined to get our people out. The overall reason they [JEM] released them is that they saw that they were going to be outgunned.” “However, as I mentioned to the troops yesterday [Wednesday] during the de-brief, we are peace keepers first and foremost and we therefore try to resolve issues through talks and negotiations. However should circumstances dictate that we keep the peace by use of lethal force, we are ready to do it.”
Lt Gen Nyamvumba added: “We have done it before and we shall continue to do so in the defense of our mandate and in the protection of civilians which is at the core of our mandate.” Chapter seven of the UN Security Council resolution 1769 of July 31, 2007 authorizes UNAMID to use force not only for the protection of civilians, but also to protect its forces and to ensure the movement of its personal and aid workers.
On Wednesday, the General praised the patrol for asking to dispatch more troops to surround the rebel force after deciding to not leave the area without the Yemeni police advisor and the two Sudanese interpreters. UNAMID chief, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, has rejected JEM’s demand on the need to get their permission before to cross the rebel-held territory saying UNAMID is mandated to protect civilians throughout the whole Darfur region.
Attacks on international peacekeepers are considered as war crimes as well as violations of international criminal law. Reports indicate that there have been increased attacks against the UN staffers and UNAMID forces in the region. The mission has in the past suffered a number of attacks by armed groups and rebels in the war torn region of western Sudan. Several Rwandan peacekeepers have died in the attacks by rebels.
Rwanda has over 3,000 peacekeeping troops deployed in Darfur.
Prof. Gambari, first warned that UNAMID troops would react in self-defence if they are attacked, in mid 2010. This was just after a meeting of the tripartite mechanism in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, discussed the security and safety of the peacekeepers on the ground. Prof. Gambari’s warning, at the time, came after the killing of two Egyptian peacekeepers in South Darfur.
In the summit, Sudan reportedly pledged to take all necessary measures to guarantee the safety of the peacekeepers. After taking over from the African Union in January 2008, the UNAMID has reportedly lost 33 personnel in ambushes or attacks. Several members of the mission have been abducted or briefly detained. Early last month, Ambassador Dane Smith, the US Senior Adviser on Darfur, who was on his second visit to Kigali said the death toll among UNAMID peacekeepers is alarming and the mission was looking into how best to support the troops.
Ambassador Dane Smith, in Kigali, had come just days after reportedly unidentified gunmen killed a Nigerian peacekeeper and wounded another during an ambush on a patrol in East Darfur. The African Union (AU) and the UNSC condemned the ambush and other attacks on the mission.