Thank you, Joint Special Representative Mamabolo, for your update on the activities of the peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
The Darfur mission was a lifeline when its peacekeepers deployed 10 years ago. In 2007, Darfur was one of the most brutal places on Earth. After four years of violence, more than 200,000 people were already dead and 2.4 million people had fled their homes. Many people were stuck in refugee camps – petrified that government-backed militias would murder them if they ventured out. The world looked to the Security Council to save lives. This mission answered the call.
The mission was never perfect. It was by far the most complex and most expensive peacekeeping mission in UN history, and the Sudanese government has tried to obstruct it from day one. But against all of these odds, the mission has helped to protect civilians. Its peacekeepers deployed with great courage and bravery. Sixty-three UNAMID troops and police have paid the ultimate price. The United States is deeply grateful for the sacrifices that all of the mission’s troop and police contributors have made.
But 10 years after the Darfur mission began its work, it is time to consider where Darfur stands today and what comes next. The Sudanese government is still failing to protect its people in Darfur. In some areas, civilians are still at grave risk of widespread violence from government-backed militias and armed groups. In other places, the government does almost nothing to provide security when local disputes turn bloody. This Council needs to see the Sudanese government do far more to provide for its people by meeting the agreed-upon benchmarks for Darfur: supporting an inclusive peace process, protecting civilians, and preventing community violence. It is not enough for the government to promise to do better. We need to see proof.
It’s also disheartening that the Sudanese government still obstructs this mission after all these years. Over the past year, the government held back hundreds of shipping containers of food and the Darfur mission is still waiting for no less than 182 containers of its equipment to be released. It is true that Sudan has started processing the UN’s paperwork faster, and that it has improved humanitarian access for the UN and its partners. We welcome those changes. But the government is not doing enough. The government must grant freedom of movement to all peacekeepers and all aid workers. The government must release all of the mission’s equipment. It also has to grant visas for all UN officials, including human rights staff. These are all demands this Council has made many times before. Council members need to stand by them.
Our long-term goal for Darfur is still the same: a negotiated, lasting peace. The United States welcomes that both the government and opposition groups have announced unilateral ceasefires. Both sides now need to turn these ceasefires into real progress towards peace talks, based on the roadmap the African Union High Implementation Panel has laid out. We call on the Sudan Liberation Movement Abdul Wahid to immediately declare a unilateral cessation of hostilities and join the negotiations.
We also need to look at the Darfur mission’s future. The situation in Darfur is still far from what we hoped it would be 10 years ago. But Darfur today is changing. In many areas the immediate threat of violence from government confrontations with the armed opposition has passed. The people need the rule of law; they need police who will respect their human rights and protect them from criminals and militias; and they need help to mediate local disputes, so they don’t flare up and spread.
So as the situation changes, the tools to prevent violence must change too. We need to ask if the mission to Darfur’s current force structure and size are still appropriate. We might not need 17,000 uniformed troops to tackle these challenges. We need the UN to start using new tools. And we need the Government of Sudan to step up.
So UNAMID should review its mission to ensure it still matches conditions on the ground. This includes how the mission can re-position its forces to stop recurring violence and to quickly get to the areas where people need the help the most.
The mission’s restructuring will also require the Sudanese government to show it is ready to govern all areas of its territory and protect all of its citizens. The government will need to work with the UN as a partner to build local institutions and to provide basic services.
We have the benchmarks, so we need to assess the government’s progress based on them and be honest in our evaluation. If the government believes it is ready to govern, it needs to show us. The expectations are well-known: we need progress on an inclusive peace process; civilians must be protected and humanitarian access unhindered; and we need to see conflicts within communities addressed through mediation. For each one, we expect that the Secretary-General’s reports will clearly spell out where Sudan meets these benchmarks and where it does not. And we expect that all of us on this Council will be just as diligent in tracking that progress. If the government falls short, this Council has a responsibility to act. The Council has to be willing to criticize and call out the government in our statements and when we review the peacekeeping mission’s mandate in June.
Helping the people of Darfur means that we need to see change. Above all, the responsibility rests with Sudan’s government. We can – and should – reconfigure the mission to Darfur to make it more effective. But what will really bring peace to Darfur is holding the government accountable. Sudan’s leaders must disarm militias that still terrorize Darfur’s people. They must support UN peacekeepers and UN staff to accomplish their missions. And they must commit not just in words, but in deeds, to building sustainable peace for Darfur’s people. I look forward to working with all of you in the coming months to help bring about these changes. Thank you.