| 19 May 2024, Sunday |

Fears after Ex-peacekeeper Bases in Sudan’s Darfur Looted

Security fears have raised  after looters vandalized and  destroyed many of a  peacekeeping force base in Darfur its withdrawal .

The vast, arid and impoverished western region awash with guns is still reeling from a bitter conflict that broke out under Sudan’s former strongman Omar al-Bashir in 2003, leaving hundreds of thousands dead.

“Looters descended on the site from all sides,” said local resident Ahmed Awad, who said he witnessed in March the pillaging of a base in the village of Menwashie, 65 kilometres (40 miles) north of Nyala, state capital of South Darfur.

“Everything was stolen within hours.”

Despite the fragile security situation, the joint United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) in January embarked on a phased withdrawal — at a time when Sudan is in the midst of a rocky political transition and a dire economic crisis, AFP reported.

To many, UNAMID — once one of the world’s largest missions with some 16,000 peacekeepers at its peak — had served as a deterrent force, despite consistently having failed to prevent scores of attacks.

The mission was set up in a bid to end a war that resulted in some 300,000 people dead and 2.5 million displaced, the UN says.

But with Bashir ousted in April 2019, a transitional government in place in Khartoum, and after a landmark peace deal struck in October with key rebel groups, UNAMID’s mandate ended on December 31, closing 13 years of operations.

Shortly after UNAMID’s mandate ended, hundreds were killed in clashes between rival groups in several parts of Darfur, a fractured society riven by bitter rivalries over land and water.

Looters from across Darfur have repeatedly broken into the sites to make off with pickings worth millions of dollars — everything from television sets to power generators.

“The Sudanese government didn’t seem at all serious in securing these sites,” Awad added.

On Wednesday, the force announced its withdrawal was completed.

UNAMID had hoped the 14 locations it handed over to the Sudanese government would be utilized for the long-term benefit of local communities.

Instead, eight sites were subjected to “vandalism” and “looting”, with the perpetrators largely unidentified, the UN said.

Darfuris say the interim government failed to live up to promises.

“The authorities promised to preserve one former peacekeeping site in my village, but it failed,” said Moussa Ibrahim, a community leader at Khor Abeche.

  • Asharq Al-Awsat