Jakarta defends its UN soldiers in Darfur

JAKARTA • Indonesia yesterday denied that its United Nations (UN) peacekeepers sought to take weapons out of Sudan's conflict-ridden Darfur.

The UN's peace mission in Darfur last week opened an inquiry after the authorities found weapons and military equipment in the baggage of a unit of peacekeepers at an airport in the region.

Meanwhile, the authorities in Jakarta confirmed the unit comprised Indonesian police, who were part of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), made up of about 20,000 soldiers and police from more than 30 countries.

However, Indonesia's foreign ministry and police denied any wrongdoing, and insisted the weapons did not belong to its officers. "Preliminary information we received from the Indonesian police personnel is that the weapons don't belong to the Indonesian police," said foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir.

Indonesian police said the suitcase containing the weapons was not part of the Indonesian personnel's baggage. It was also about 10m away from the rest of their luggage."The luggage did not have an Indonesian label on it, and the colour was different," said national police spokesman Martinus Sitompul.

It was found to contain weapons after being put through a scanner.

Police said the suitcase containing the weapons was not part of the Indonesian personnel's baggage. It was also about 10m away from the rest of their luggage.

The Indonesian peacekeepers have not been allowed leave Darfur pending the outcome of the UN investigation. An Indonesian police team will be sent to the region to provide assistance.

The UNAMID mission was first deployed in Darfur - a region the size of France - in 2007, a compromise between Western calls for a fully-fledged UN peacekeeping mission and Khartoum's insistence on an African solution.

Violence erupted in Darfur when ethnic minority rebels rose up against President Omar al-Bashir and accused his Arab-dominated government of marginalising the region.

Mr Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, mounted a brutal counter-insurgency. At least 300,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in 2003, says the UN, while another 2.5 million have fled their homes.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 25, 2017, with the headline 'Jakarta defends its UN soldiers in Darfur'. Print Edition | Subscribe