The UN-AU peacekeeping mission operating in western Sudan has begun airlifting staff out of Darfur, following the International Criminal Court prosecutor's proposed war crimes charges against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
UN efforts to airlift staff from Darfur in the face of deteriorating security were temporarily stalled on Tuesday as a result of "technical reasons" that delayed an aircraft, a spokeswoman said.
A first batch of non-essential staff flew from the capital of South Darfur state, Nyala, to Entebbe in Uganda. A second group will leave on Wednesday after waiting for hours at the airport at El Fasher, in North Darfur.
The United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in the western region announced it would recall staff after the International Criminal Court prosecutor proposed war crimes charges against Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir.
"A total of 32 left Nyala today to Entebbe," said Josephine Guerrero, spokeswoman in Darfur for the UN-led peacekeeping mission.
"Due to technical reasons, others were unable to fly out from El Fasher but those who were delayed will fly first thing tomorrow morning," Guerrero added.
Another official said 51 staff had been kept waiting at El Fasher airport for hours on Tuesday.
UNAMID decided to fly out non-essential staff to Ethiopia and Uganda, following months of worsening security despite assurances from Sudan that it would protect peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.
"It's not an evacuation. We're temporarily relocating staff, some non-essential staff," said Guerrero.
"UNAMID is not pulling out. All the forces are going to be on the ground and humanitarian operations are continuing," she added, referring to the UN-African Union military and police force, only a third of which has deployed.
Staff could return within days or weeks if the mission downgrades its security alert, officials said.
Date created : 2008-07-16