Over 829 Ethiopian peacekeeping troops are finally set to return home after 13 years of peacekeeping service in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan. The move comes following the end of the joint United Nations–African Union Mission in the Darfur region of Sudan (UNAMID).
According to the joint peacekeeping force, the operations came to an end on December 31, 2020 after the Government of Sudan took over the responsibility of protecting civilians in the area. Ethiopia has been one of the top troop contributing countries along with a handful of other nations.
Until Thursday, 4,050 military personnel and 2,500 police advisers and police units were deployed in Darfur. With 829 military personnel, Ethiopia is the third highest troop contributor, next to Rwanda and Pakistan that have contributed 1,158 and 1,066 troops, respectively.
Ethiopia is still the largest troop contributor to UN’s peacekeeping missions with over 8,300 uniformed personnel, the vast majority of them serving in Abyei (UNISFA), South Sudan (UNMISS) as well as Darfur (UNAMID), according to UN Peacekeeping’s November 2020 report.
Speaking earlier in 2020, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix said “Ethiopia is one of UN peacekeeping’s strongest partners, and is currently our largest contributor of uniformed personnel.”
Garnering praise over “it’s steadfast” support to UN peacekeeping missions over the decades, 118 Ethiopian personnel have so far paid the ultimate price in the service of peace.
Conflict spread in Sudan’s western Darfur region from 2003 onwards after mostly non-Arab rebels rose up against Khartoum. Government forces, under the administration of former Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir and Arab militia that moved to repress the revolt, were accused of widespread atrocities. An estimated 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million were displaced in the conflict.
Bashir, deposed by the military in April 2019 after months of protests, is accused of war crimes in the conflict that broke out in the area. Sudan's current leaders have already agreed to hand over ex-President Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to face genocide and war crimes charges.
It is to be recalled that a transitional government was formed in Sudan, under a three year power sharing agreement between the military and civilian groups, meant to lead to free and fair elections.
In June, the Security Council established a UN political mission to assist Sudan’s political transition, support the peace processes, aid peace-building, civilian protection and rule of law particularly in Darfur, and help coordinate humanitarian aid and development assistance.