Slashing UNAMID Translates Into Numerous Base Closings; Results Will Likely be Catastrophic in Some

Sources within the UN have released the list of UNAMID bases to be closed or stripped of a military (as opposed to a police) presence. The list makes painfully clear just how dangerously consequential are the Mission’s broad reductions: military presence in Darfur will be reduced by 44 percent and the police presence by 33 percent. There will also be a significant drawdown of non-armed UNAMID personnel, with inevitably hindering consequences for the operations of the remaining armed elements of UNAMID.

I will gloss the specific implications of the list below, but some are simply unconscionable and will put an end to humanitarian access. It should be noted that the UN’s Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) will not fly to locations that are without a military presence. This alone represents an extreme threat to humanitarian access in Darfur.

This list many not be fully comprehensive, and may be subject to slight modification. But given the end-of-June deadline for a UN Security Council resolution re-authorizing UNAMID in re-configured form, the list is almost certainly accurate to a very high degree:

CAMPS IN WHICH BOTH A UNAMID MILITARY AND POLICE PRESENCE WILL BE TERMINATED (those names in orange designate closings particularly dangerous to civilians):

Abu Shouk (North Darfur)

Zamzam (North Darfur

Al Malihah (North Darfur)

Um Kaddadah (North Darfur)

Tine (North Darfur)

Mellit (North Darfur)

Habila (West Darfur)

Foro Burunga (West Darfur)

Edd al Fursan (South Darfur)

Tulus (South Darfur)

Muhajiriyah (East Darfur [formerly South Darfur])

CAMPS IN WHICH A UNAMID MILITARY PRESENCE WILL BE TERMINATED (those names in red designate closings particularly dangerous to civilians):

Kalma Camp (South Darfur)

Sereif (South Darfur)

Shearia (South Darfur)

Saraf Omra (near border between North Darfur/Central Darfur)

Korma (North Darfur)

Umm Barru/Buru (North Darfur)

Masteri (West Darfur)

General commentary on these sites:

Even if not highlighted in orange, all these sites have been the locations for extreme violence over the fourteen years of the continuing Darfur genocide. While notorious Janjaweed leader Musa Hilal’s directive has in one sense largely been implemented—“Change the demography of Darfur…empty it of African tribes”—violence continues in many locations and has constantly shifted in location over these many years. UNAMID bases are all near the many camps for the 2.7 million internally displaced people, and indeed have been the impetus for camp creation (most strikingly, for example, the Sortony IDP camp in North Darfur following Khartoum’s brutal Jebel Marra campaign of 2016).

A 44 percent reduction in military forces ensures that many locations will be beyond humanitarian reach; as noted above the UN’s Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) will not fly to locations that are without military protection. The (11) UNAMID bases included in this category are near some of the most troubled and violent regions in all of Darfur. The (7) UNAMID bases that will henceforth operate with only a police presence may be able to control local disputes, but will be completely unable to deter larger-scale attacks on civilians. The camps near these reconfigured UNAMID bases will be even more acutely vulnerable to attacks by militia or SAF forces, and completely impotent in the face of Khartoum’s announced plans to dismantle IDP camps in Darfur.

While Khartoum may show restraint as UNAMID elements are deploying out of Darfur, when substantial deployment out has been achieved—with so many fewer non-Sudanese eyes on the ground and a humanitarian effort much more constrained in its movement—Khartoum will move onto the final phase of genocidal destruction.

It is an open question as to which of the International Nongovernmental Humanitarian Organizations (INGOs) now operating in Darfur will feel insecurity to be too great to continue their life-saving work. Khartoum has long wished to see the exit of international relief efforts, and has expelled more than two dozen organizations since 2009; others have already left because of intolerable insecurity. The drastic reduction in UNAMID’s footprint, however poorly the Mission has performed in its tasks of civilian and humanitarian protection, may precipitate more decisions to leave.

Finally, to the extent that UNAMID military personnel have been able to provide armed escort services for convoys of UN agencies (such as the World Food Program) and relief organizations, this service will be severely truncated, further reducing humanitarian access to areas that require convoy protection.

In defense of these reductions, the UN and UNAMID officials argue that the Mission will be re-configured with greater rapid response capabilities. Judging by all we have seen of UNAMID’s responses to critical moments of violence and acute threats to civilians, this defense seems utterly preposterous. Nor is there any credible indication of where the rapid response transport resources will come from: they don’t exist now, and no contributors of the necessary equipment have been identified.