The UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has complained that verification teams it dispatched to probe how over 30 Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) were abducted last week, have been frustrated by local authorities.
A press statement from Dr. Eicha Elbasri, the UNAMID official spokesman, which was received by PANA in Khartoum, explained that on Tuesday the mission sent an inquiry team to its team site in the Kass locality, South Darfur, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the recent arrest of IDPs by an unidentified armed group at Arga checkpoint, in a border area between Central Darfur and South Darfur States.
It added that UNAMID investigation aims to ascertain all the facts surrounding the incident, including the identity of the perpetrators and their motives.
The investigation comes after repeated efforts to access the area on 24 and 25 March.
On 24 March, the UNAMID-escorted convoy of three buses carrying 31 IDPs was stopped by an unidentified armed group in military uniforms on board seven gun-mounted jeeps at Arga checkpoint.
“Immediately following the arrest of the IDPs, UNAMID commander on the ground requested a reinforcement patrol. While on its way to the site, the reinforcement patrol was stopped by the Sudanese military at Kass checkpoint, which prevented the peacekeepers from attempting to release the IDPs.” the statement indicated.
It argued that on 25 March, another UNAMID verification patrol proceeded to the abduction site and “was again denied access by government personnel at Kass checkpoint.”
While the investigation team reached UNAMID team site in Kass locality on 26 March, a verification patrol succeeded in making its way to the incident site as well.
The mission argued that the Arga checkpoint incident is another indication of the amount of risks that UNAMID peacekeepers have to operate in across Darfur, including the risk of ambush, armed attacks, abduction, killing or looting.
“The incident is also another example of how access restrictions have affected the Mission’s work in several crucial ways,” the statement complained.
It recalled that according to the Status of Forces Agreement that was signed by the Government of Sudan and UNAMID on 9 February, 2008, the Mission peacekeepers do not need clearance from the Government for their land movements in Darfur.
The Agreement grants the Mission full access to all parts of Darfur.
The statement concluded that while UNAMID does not need permission, it certainly coordinates its movements with the government authorities as well as with the armed movements operating in the areas visited by the Mission.