South Africa to Withdraw Peacekeeper Troops From Darfur
South Africa President Jacob Zuma has announced the country will withdraw its peacekeeping troops from the Darfur region in Sudan.
The South African leader confirmed on Wednesday the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will end its mission in Darfur on April 1. SANDF have been operating under the UN and African Union (AU) mission in Darfur since 2008.
The move comes as part of the joint mission’s exit strategy from the western Sudan region. The African Union/United Nations hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID) has become the world’s largest peacekeeping operation with more than 14,400 troops and 3,100 police officers.
The AU initially deployed a peacekeeping mission into Sudan in 2006, which was replaced by the UNAMID joint effort in 2008. South Africa’s SANDF troops were deployed as a part of the new project, but they will now withdraw after eight years of serving in the region.
Sudan welcomes withdrawal
Sudan’s foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour has welcomed the move to withdraw South African peacekeeper troops from Darfur. He says the region “has witnessed security and peace,” while hinting Sudan is ready to take the helm of maintaining peace in the region.
“This decision comes in the framework of the ongoing consultations between the United Nations, African Union and the Sudanese government on the UNAMID exit strategy as Darfur has witnessed security and peace and now heading to an administrative referendum,’’ he said in a statement.
Discussions on the UNAMID exit strategy resumed last month after the UN and AU extended their mandate in Darfur June last year. The bodies announced at the time they were happy with progress in the region, but stated the importance of a gradual exit strategy to ensure they would leave the region with a sustainable peace plan.
As South African troops prepare to leave Darfur, the UN has said the Sudanese government will need to sign a ceasefire with rebel groups and establish a peace agreement that ensures the safety of civilians.