Sudan: Preparing for the Big Show

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September 23, 2007: Since 2003 around 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur's ethnic warfare. Approximately 2.5 million have been displaced, either internally or forced to flee to camps in Chad. The government, however, disagrees with these widely accepted numbers. The government claims 9,000 have died in the fighting. The number in refugee camps is harder to dispute, since they can easily be counted. Interviews with these refugees provide the basis for estimates of those who have died.

September 21, 2007: Factions from both the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM) and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) suspended negotiations over peace talks. The rebel leaders were trying to hammer out a unified platform for peace talks which are expected to begin later this fall, possibly in late October. Abdel Wahid el-Nur, the head of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLA/M) faction, did not attend the talks. The other rebel leaders said his participation was necessary. Officially the SLA/M opposes peace talks with the government until pro-government janjaweed militias are disarmed. Essentially that mean the SLA/M doesn't want to talk until a more capable peacekeeping force deploys in Darfur.

September 20, 2007: A World Vision International (an NGO) convoy was attacked in South Darfur state. Eight World Vision workers were wounded in the attack, three seriously.

Al Qaeda's "theoretician," Egyptian Islamist Ayman al-Zawahri, appeared in a video that said Muslims should attack African Union and UN peacekeeping forces when they deploy to Darfur. Zawahiri also criticized the Sudan government for "backing down" to the UN.

September 17, 2007: A former Canadian general, Romeo Dallaire, who commanded UN forces in Rwanda in 1994, believes that any UN force deployed in Darfur would confront "long odds." Dallaire predicted that the peacekeepers will be "let down by everyone" who claims they support the operation, and that "whoever fails you" will be the party "most active in blaming you for whatever goes wrong." Soldiers face this problem all of the time. There are several major problems the force will face. Command structure is one. Who is really in charge of what has not been determined. One of the biggest problems is "resolve." When the going gets tough many supporters will bail out. What's tough? "Collateral damage" will occur where civilians are killed in a crossfire or accidentally fired upon. Trust that the government will also use the information warfare techniques employed by their friends in al Qaeda and the Taliban. In Afghanistan the Taliban operates a slick "psychological warfare" operation that after an air strike usually claims civilians were killed. The Afghan government, and U.S. and NATO commanders then have to react to the allegation. Often it takes time to determine if a mistake was made, but the allegation itself is usually treated as "news" by media. The allegation becomes "the first story out there." The UN-AU peacekeepers will encounter this. Will the Hollywood celebrities stick with the peacekeepers when wailing mothers appear on television claiming UN peacekeepers bombed her home and killed her kids? This is the sort of thing Dallaire is warning everyone about.

 

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