Photo by Mohamed Nureldin.
Zalingei, 29 April 2019, Protection of civilians represents UNAMID’s core mandate, as further enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 2429 (2018), thereby defining the Mission’s Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Liaison Section’s (PoC/HL) critical Mission-wide coordination, advisory and information sharing role on issues related to protection of civilians in Darfur. This role is accomplished with unwavering support from various UNAMID components, the United Nations Country Team and Humanitarian Country Team (UNCT/HCT).
Through its various interventions, both at preventive and corrective stages of its operations in the Mission’s operational area in Darfur, UNAMID’s PoC/HL Section contributes to the stabilization of security conditions thereby facilitating the protection of civilians and the safe and timely provision of humanitarian assistance to populations in need throughout the region.
When volatile security situations erupt which threatens civilian lives, as recently happened in Kalma IDP Camp in south Darfur, where two rival IDP groups clashed resulting in the killing of 16 people including a humanitarian-field worker, with 17 injured, and a significant number of IDPs displaced, UNAMID PoC/HL Section conferred with the Mission’s Formed Police Units (FPUs), who immediately positioned its Armored Personnel Carrier (APCs) in tactical emplacements for the creation of a buffer between the two rival groups and thereby diffused the tensions and reduced significantly the number of casualties, which therefore prevented further harm to civilians.
In addition to the physical protection, an integrated Mission engaged in strong advocacy and immediately engaged in mediation and reconciliation efforts with the local authorities and the IDP leaders and youths in the camp through two separate sessions with the rival groups. The UNAMID integrated mission was reinforced by a joint OCHA-UNAMID team.
As a result of UNAMID and UN Agencies joint protection and mediation efforts, the two groups showed their commitment for the creation of conducive environment to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers. The various meeting concluded with an agreement that the leadership would provide a written undertaking to formalize guarantees necessary to ensure the safety and security of the humanitarian space in Kalma, while arrangements would be made for the resumption of humanitarian service as means to test the safety guarantees.
Commenting on the nature of protection of civilian support UNAMID provides to emergent volatile situations as the one described above in Kalma, Miriam Ghalmi, Chief of UNAMID’s Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Liaison Section, restated to all parties who choose to engage in violence in any IDP Camp in the Mission’s operational area, that such acts or threats of violence against the civilian population are strongly prohibited by International Humanitarian principles.
“UNAMID would like to remind all IDPs that their camps are considered humanitarian space which should be free of weapons, places where displaced people must not be subjected to threats, harassment, attacks or harm. Violence must be renounced to ensure the protected space in line with international humanitarian principles,” Ms. Ghalmi emphasized.
Previously in November 2017, UNAMID mediated between the IDPs in the same IDP Camp in Kalma and Government of Sudan (GoS) authorities, when the latter tried to implement an arms collection exercise in the Camp. In this instance, UNAMID intervention led to the establishment of a tripartite mechanism involving the IDP leadership, the GoS and UNAMID thereby mitigating the escalation of a potentially volatile situation, although this did not result in the collection of arms in the Camp.
In volatile situations where a complex web of tensions exists, UNAMID PoC/HL Section, takes a conflict-sensitive approach in dealing with the situation giving due consideration to the dynamics between the actors involved when formulating options for UNAMID interventions all the time maintaining its impartiality, transparency and inclusive approach as articulated in international humanitarian principles. UN staff invariably urge conflicting parties to resolve internal differences amicably as well as requesting them to provide assurances that humanitarian personnel would not be exposed to violence.