MAY 13, 2010: Peacekeepers Vow to Defend Themselves

Peacekeepers Vow to Defend Themselves
SOURCE: The New Times
By James Karuhanga
United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) peacekeepers have warned that they will react in self-defence if they are attacked in the western Sudanese troubled region of Darfur.

"We (UNAMID) are going to be very strict in terms of a robust position so that people will be discouraged from even attempting to attack us," Prof. Gambari, who is also the AU-UN Joint Special Representative in Darfur, told a UN Radio on Tuesday.

A meeting of the tripartite mechanism held on Monday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, discussed the security and safety of the peacekeepers on the ground, particularly after the killing of two Egyptian peacekeepers in South Darfur last week.

"We also want to make it clear that an attack on international peacekeepers is a war crime, a violation of international criminal law," he said.

In the summit, Sudan reportedly pledged to take all necessary measures to guarantee the safety of the peacekeepers.

The Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) is deployed in Darfur since 2004 where it has four battalions -second largest troop contributor to UNAMID.

A Rwandan officer, Lt. Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba is the overall Force Commander.

Lt. Gen. Nyamvumba has also echoed the need for self defence, when his forces are provoked.

"Self defence is an inherent right that should be exercised without a doubt," Nyamvumba noted in an e-mail yesterday.

Army spokesperson, Maj. Jill Rutaremara, shared Nyamvumba's position on the subject.

"Peacekeepers have a right to self defence, and to a large extent, the right to defend the mandate of the peacekeeping mission while at the same time observing the Rules of Engagement," said Rutaremara.

Deployed since January 2008, UNAMID has lost 24 personnel in ambushes or attacks and several members of the mission have been abducted or briefly detained.

It was also decided that the Tripartite Mechanism will meet on a monthly basis at the operational level in El Fasher and Khartoum, with meetings at a strategic level held every three months. The next meeting at a strategic level is planned to take place in New York in September.