African Union says Sudan halts key mission flights

AFRICA NEWS

The African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur said Tuesday that Sudan has suspended flights to its support base in Uganda, a historic ally of South Sudan, but Khartoum denied the move.

“The ministry of defence notified us on Wednesday (last week) that there could be no international flights between El Fasher (in North Darfur) and Entebbe (in Uganda),” a spokesman for the UNAMID mission told AFP.

UNAMID in Sudan

UNAMID operates four flights a week from Entebbe, a logistics and rest station

UNAMID said it was given no reason, but the move followed a month-long border war between Sudan and South Sudan, with a UN-imposed ceasefire in effect since last Friday.

“This information is completely incorrect,” said Al-Obeid Meruh, spokesman for the foreign ministry in Khartoum. “We didn’t suspend any UNAMID flights.”

Uganda backed the south during Sudan’s 22-year civil war which ended with a 2005 peace deal that led to the South’s independence in July last year.

During the civil war the north, in apparent retaliation, Sudan backed the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Ugandan rebel group.

Passengers told AFP they had been ordered off a flight that was bound for Entebbe, a town in Uganda’s south, on Wednesday last week.

The UNAMID spokesman said he understood that with Entebbe flights suspended all international flights were to go through Khartoum, a more time-consuming and costly routing for the mission of more than 23,000 peacekeeping troops and police.

Khartoum-Entebbe flights had not yet begun, said the spokesman.

“Right now we’re working to resolve the situation,” with a senior UNAMID official travelling to Khartoum to discuss the matter, said the spokesman.

“Today they got permission to fly between Khartoum, El Fasher and Entebbe,” said Meruh. “They have to show their evidence if they received any written letter from Sudanese officials saying that their flights are suspended.”

UNAMID said it operated four flights a week from Entebbe, a logistics and rest station, as well as a support centre providing joint administrative backup for UNAMID and other African UN missions as a way to save money.

An analyst has said Sudan’s ruling elite is divided over the merits of a UN resolution which called tensions between Sudan and the South a threat to international peace and security.

The analyst said some Sudanese leaders object partly because the UN calls for Sudan and South Sudan to resume negotiations under a process supported by IGAD, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development to which Uganda belongs.

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Source: AFP

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