African Union leaders and the UN recommended ending their joint peacekeeping mission in Darfur Friday, acknowledging the "positive impact" that the political transformation in Sudan had on the region.
In a joint report submitted to the UN Security Council, the two bodies recommended that the mission, known as UNAMID, cease as of December 31.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and AU chief Moussa Faki, who authored the report, estimated that a withdrawal of the mission from Darfur will take six months, a timeframe that will also depend on how Covid-19 and the region's rainy season play out.
UNAMID, which has been in operation since 2007, is comprised of some 8,000 peacekeepers though included up to 16,000 at its peak
The report said that the two bodies' leaders "acknowledged the positive impact of the political transformation in Sudan on the protection of civilians in Darfur."
"It is further recommended that the international community, especially the UN, the AU and IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) continue to explore, together with the Sudanese authorities, appropriate support measures to sustain peace, security and development efforts," they said.
The two acknowledged that while armed clashes had subsided following the August 2019 Juba peace talks, they had "escalated in 2020."
"Intercommunal conflict also increased in 2019 and into 2020," the report said, noting that crime had "remained relatively unchanged in 2020."
"The recent spike in violence in Darfur, albeit not at the scale of the early days of the conflict, highlights the inherent fragility of any major political transition," the report said.
Meanwhile a leader has yet to be appointed to a newly formed UN mission created in June to support Sudan's political transition following last year's ouster of president Omar al-Bashir.
According to diplomats, Guterres may be inclined to choose a leader from Africa particularly after the withdrawal of a French candidate who was blocked by Russia.
The United Nations says the conflict in the vast Darfur region of western Sudan killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million.