Sudan: Death By Delay

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December23, 2006: The UN told the government that the UN's "three phase" plan for creating a "hybrid" UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur must be accepted "in its entirety." The Sudanese said they would accept the UN force, but in the past the government has found ways to block UN operations, after agreeing to allow them.

The UN statement is a response to government attempts to block the UN force or limit the UN's role to an ill-defined support function. The AU and UN produced the plan on November 16. In late November the AU's Peace and Security Council reaffirmed the goal of a "hybrid" peacekeeping force. Sudan has a seat on the AU's Peace and Security Council. However, Sudan maintains it has never agreed to a non-AU peacekeeping force. Sudan has continued to spar over the peacekeeping force with the AU, the UN leadership, UN Security Council, the US government, and several West European governments.

The UN's "three phase" peacekeeping plan ultimately provides for more than logistical support. Improved training, improved command and control, and improved mobility are part of the "entirety." The personnel complement in phase one is very small: 105 military, 33 policemen, and 48 staff members. The AU peacekeepers would also receive another 36 armored personnel carriers. Phase one would supply the AU peacekeepers with Global Positioning equipment (GPS) which would improve both the ability to navigate and command troops. Adding GPS also makes it easier to support peacekeepers on the ground with air support (because the pilots know immediately where the ground forces are located).

The second phase would add more UN military troops and police (the exact number is unstated, but a fair guess is 400 to 800 more, in other words, a battalion). In addition, the force would be beefed up with helicopters, other aviation assets, and logistical support units (more trucks). The aviation and logistics units would add more personnel.

The third phase would be the creation of a joint AU-UN peacekeeping command.

Sudan believes that this plan is amounts to "letting the camel poke his nose in the tent." The AU-UN force on the ground could then be easily reinforced by larger UN military contingents. On this count the Sudan government is right.

December 22, 2006: The rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) rejected the Sudan government's claim that 200 rebels died in a firefight near Kutum. The rebel statement claimed they had driven off a janjaweed militia force. The rebels also claimed they had shot down two government helicopters.

December 21, 2006: The government claimed that its forces in Darfur stopped a rebel attack on the towb of Kutum in North Darfur. The government statement said that 200 rebels belonging to the SLM/A died in the attack. Four Sudanese soldiers died in the attack.

December 20, 2006: The UN withdrew 71 aid workers from the Gereida camp area in South Darfur. This was the eighth UN "evacuation" of aid and support personnel from Darfur in the last four weeks. The UN statement reported that "gunmen" had attacked the workers compound and had stolen vehicles and cash. Direct attacks on aid workers in Darfur have been increasingly common over the past four years. There are several reasons for this. First of all, the May 5 peace deal has completely collapsed. Second, the UN Security Council is advocating a UN takeover of peacekeeping operations in Darfur, and the government objects. It appears someone in the government has given a nod to the janjaweed militias to "up the pressure" on the UN. That "pressure" is designed to get the UN to back off. Of course, increasing pressure on aid workers increases the pressure on UN leaders to provide increased security.

 

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