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Darfur: UN-African Union mission, Sudan commit to prison reform

By UN

21 February - The joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in the war-ravaged Darfur region and the Sudanese Government today signed an agreement to improve prison management and inmates' living conditions.

The memorandum of understanding was signed today in El Fasher, North Darfur, at the headquarters of the mission, known as UNAMID.

It aims to deepen cooperation between the mission and the Government in areas such as training prison personnel, improving prison facilities and promoting prisoner rehabilitation programmes.

Germain Baricako, Director of UNAMID's Rule of Law division, voiced hope that the implementation of the new agreement will “help to provide prison support in a more systematic, coordinated and concentrated manner.”

Today's signing was attended by senior UNAMID officials, including Deputy Joint Special Representative Henry Anyidoho, and on the Sudanese side by, among others, Maj.-Gen. Abu Ubeida Suleiman Abdulkareem, Director-General of Prisons and Reform.

The mission was set up two years ago by the Security Council to protect civilians in Darfur, where at least 300,000 people are estimated to have died and another 2.7 million more have been driven from their homes in over six years of fighting between the Government, its militia allies and various armed groups.

Last week, UNAMID deplored the 16 February attack outside South Darfur's capital, Nyala, that wounded seven Pakistani peacekeepers.

The blue helments, part of a five-vehicle police convoy, came under heavy gunfire in the afternoon near Sakali, an area located two kilometres from the El-Sherif camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 17 kilometres south of Nyala.

They were returning to their base in Nyala, following a confidence-building patrol in the vicinity of the IDP camp, when several unknown assailants armed with AK-47 assault rifles suddenly opened fire on the convoy, according to a news release issued by the mission.

“The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Sudan to launch an immediate investigation into this incident and to ensure that the perpetrators are swiftly identified and brought to justice,” his spokesperson said in a statement.

Also condemning the attack, the UN-AU mission called on all parties to ensure the safety of its personnel in the region.

The Joint UN-AU Special Representative and head of UNAMID, Ibrahim Gambari, who visited the wounded officers at the Nyala Hospital, voiced his outrage at the “wanton” act of violence. He praised the courage of the peacekeepers and pledged that UNAMID would be undeterred.

“Any attack on peacekeepers is tantamount to a war crime. Those responsible must be brought to justice,” he stated. “Our mission will continue to carry out its mandate – to bring peace and security to the people of Darfur.”

In December 2009, five Rwandan troops were killed and three injured in two separate incidents in North Darfur.