Kampala - The African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council has endorsed a recommendation to extend the mandate of the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), Sudan, for another 12 months until 30 June 2017.

The United Nations’ top peace keeping official, Herve Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations advised the UN Security Council to follow suit.

Ladsous told the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Tuesday that, following a recent assessment of the situation in Darfur, from 1 July 2015 to 15 May 2015 which showed little progress, the mandate of the AU-UN should be extended for another year without changes to its priorities or its authorised troop and police ceiling.

The assessment was contained in the Special Report of the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the AU Commission on UNAMID.

The report provided an analysis of military and police components, and presented recommendations on how to improve the operational effectiveness of UNAMID, as well as an update on the status of tripartite discussions on the exit strategy of the organisation among the AU, UN and Sudan’s government.

Ladsous said the sectarian violence emanating from disputes over access to land, water and grazing areas remained a major cause of insecurity in Darfur.

While direct clashes between the government and armed movements had subsided, fighting with the Sudan Liberation Army/Abdul Wahid (SLA/AW) in Jebel Marra, which rejects any negotiations with the Sudanese government, has continued.

As many as 2.6 million people remain displaced across Darfur. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported 80 000 verified displaced persons since the resumption of fighting in Jebel Marra in mid-January.

Up to 127 000 displaced persons were yet to be verified. Further, 1.6 million civilians continue to reside in some 60 camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region.

UNAMID continued to face considerable challenges in its relations with the Sudanese government, which impeded the implementation of its mandate.

These included denials of access and freedom of movement, particularly to conflict areas such as Jebel Marra, and denials and delays in the issuance of visas and the clearance of shipment containers at Port Sudan.

Given the current situation in Darfur, the assessment concluded that the strategic priorities of UNAMID and their corresponding benchmarks remain valid.

“Within this framework, the [AU] Chairperson and the [UN] Secretary-General therefore recommended UNAMID focus its activities on first protecting the displaced population and second addressing more comprehensively inter-communal violence,” said Ladsous.

“In a situation of continuing armed conflict, inter-communal violence and attacks against civilians, the current security conditions in Darfur are not conducive to a large-scale return of IDPs to their places of origin.”

A review of the effectiveness of the military and police components recommended for the current number of military and police personnel to be retained.

However, within the existing capabilities, UNAMID should enhance its overall flexibility by reinforcing troops at sites of greater operational significance while reducing or closing others.

The Mission could also create a highly mobile reserve military capability and an increased field presence of police officers.

– African News Agency