In a first reading on 25 October, the German Bundestag debated extending the mandate for the deployment of Bundeswehr soldiers serving in UNAMID, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, in the Sudan. The Cabinet had decided on 17 October to renew the mandate, subject to the Bundestag’s approval. Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle addressed the Bundestag as follows:
– verbatim report of proceedings –
Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues,
The Darfur conflict is one of the worst catastrophes of the past decade. Even if it is no longer in the media spotlight to quite the same extent, it is still an issue that requires our close and sustained attention.
The United Nations estimates that the conflict claimed some 300,000 human lives in the period from 2003 to 2008. 2.5 million people were displaced from their homes. The conflict further destabilized the Sudan and at times spilled over into the neighbouring countries of Chad and the Central African Republic.
UNAMID – the mandate up for extension today, whose extension we endorse – is a joint operation run by the United Nations and the African Union. Our participation is, it must be said, of an auxiliary nature. Germany currently has ten soldiers serving with UNAMID in the UNAMID headquarters, as well as four police officers serving with the mission.
Last year I travelled to the region and saw the extremely challenging conditions with my own eyes. For that reason I would like to take the liberty of saying – and I am sure I speak for the entire House – that the soldiers and police officers there deserve our respect and thanks for the vital work they are doing in a very difficult and personally challenging environment.
UNAMID – as we all know – remains a difficult mission. I do not want to gloss over the initial difficulties that were experienced, nor talk down the problems regarding the mission. UNAMID is still confronted with these problems. The humanitarian situation remains dire: 1.7 million people are reliant on emergency aid. In 2012 alone, Germany has provided around 4.2 million euros in humanitarian assistance. The security environment remains uncertain. Clashes between rebels and government troops continue to occur, as do skirmishes between the various rebel groups.
Cooperation with Khartoum remains difficult. UNAMID personnel are subject to visa restrictions and cannot move freely around the country. This fact cannot be ignored. You know that in the past weeks and months other, quite separate issues, have been on the table in Khartoum. But that’s something I don’t want to go into today. However, this is the political background against which we are debating this mission, and against which it is operating.
Of course the political situation remains problematic. There is still no solution to the Darfur conflict, not least because the peace accords negotiated last year in Doha have not even been recognized by all parties, let alone put into effect. While some progress is being made on implementation, it is in our view being made too slowly.
UNAMID has at least succeeded in containing the Darfur conflict. The violence has subsided. Refugees are returning and the people of Darfur now have a voice, in, for example, the regional administration. That might not sound like much to us here. But if you’ve been there and spoken to the people, you realize how valuable these improvements are and how much they mean to the people. We want to continue to build on these first successes – for they cannot be called anything more.
UNAMID thus remains an indispensable stabilizing presence for Darfur. Through UNAMID, we can continue to help ensure that the people receive food and shelter. Through UNAMID, we can continue to organize protection for civilians. Through UNAMID, we can continue to improve the security situation in Darfur. And only through UNAMID can we continue to support the political efforts to end the crisis. That is the reason why the German Government continues to support this mission. Of course, we want to keep working to improve the implementation of the mandate. But in our view, the mandate itself is reasonable. It should be extended by the German Bundestag.
The mission has been given a robust mandate under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. In our opinion, this is necessary, for even if our own compatriots have fortunately been spared, UNAMID itself has repeatedly been the target of attacks. Since its start, 118 members of the mission have lost their lives. In this month alone, five UNAMID soldiers, four from Nigeria and one from South Africa, have been killed in attacks. We all condemn this violence in the strongest terms.
Our contribution to UNAMID helps strengthen African peacekeeping capabilities. We are helping the African Union assume responsibility for security in Africa. In addition to our military and police contributions, Germany also contributes financially to the mission. In this year alone, we have provided some 120 million US dollars. The German Government promotes projects that support UNAMID’s work. These include training measures for African soldiers and police officers at the Kofi Annan Training Centre, as well as support for African Union and United Nations mediation teams.
On behalf of the Federal Government, I would like to request that the German armed forces may continue to participate, on the same terms as before, in this hybrid operation in Darfur. Last year the mandate for our German participation in UNAMID was approved by the Bundestag with the united support of four parliamentary groups. Even with all its difficulties, we believe that UNAMID also deserves our support and unity this year. More importantly, our German compatriots who are working in Darfur under very difficult circumstances have earned the strong support of this esteemed House. On behalf of the Federal Government, I request your approval of this mandate.
Let me add one last thing. I believe that a show of unity would be a real help for this mandate, and above all for the men and women who are out there in the region, in the country, right now, undertaking genuinely self-sacrificing work. Anyone who has been there knows the conditions under which people work there. And, with your permission, on a non-partisan note, let me say that this really calls for great respect, from all of us.