UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. mission established in Sudan in 2005 to monitor that country's peace agreement has helped maintain a cease-fire between the north and south but otherwise has had limited success, the world body's independent oversight office said Wednesday.
The report by the Office of Internal Oversight Services was circulated a little more than a month before the mandate for the peacekeeping mission known as UNMIS expires April 30.
It comes as the U.N. Security Council begins considering the mission's future after Southern Sudan secedes from the north in July following a peaceful vote for independence early this year.
The options include renewing the mission's mandate and expanding it to include the north-south border. The 15-member council also could expand a separate U.N. mission in Sudan's tumultuous Darfur region to help monitor the border, or create a new, separate mission to exclusively patrol the north-south line.
As of late January, UNMIS had more than 10,500 uniformed personnel including 9,304 troops 513 military observers and 702 police officers. Operations are supported by 966 international civilian personnel and 2,837 local civilian staff.
One of UNMIS' greatest past failings has been its inability to protect civilians during violence in 2008 and 2009, something that has "negatively affected its credibility and legitimacy," the report said.
UNMIS has been monitoring implementation of a 2005 peace agreement that ended two decades of war between the Arab-dominated north and Christian and animist south of Africa's largest country.
The conflict is unrelated to the fighting in the western region of Darfur where rebel groups took up arms against the government in February 2003 and where a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force is trying to help protect civilians.
The oversight office helps Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon meet his responsibilities of overseeing U.N. resources and staff through monitoring, internal audit, inspection, evaluation and investigation.
Its report on UNMIS said the mission "has made progress" but has "contended with serious challenges, which have hampered its success."
It said in its first years, the fighting in Darfur forced the mission to focus on that region rather than the peace agreement that ended the north-south civil war.
A separate hybrid African Union/United Nations peacekeeping operation called UNAMID was set up in Darfur in 2007 to focus on that area.
UNMIS also has suffered from high vacancy rates in key positions, including the head of mission job that stayed open for more than a year. The peacekeeping operation and the U.N. country team in Sudan also have not worked together in many cases, the report said, but have begun coordinating better over the past year.
The oversight office laid out recommendations for improvement, including the development of a tighter working relationship between the U.N. peacekeeping and U.N. country operations, more thorough reporting of human rights violations, and advance planning on how to successfully leave Sudan when peacekeepers fulfill their mandate.