UN officials have begun
expressing concern about the slow pace of troop contingent commitments for the
hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur. At the moment the lack of helicopters is a
major worry. The UN-African Union force needs at least 18 transport
helicopters. The force also needs a light observation (recon) helicopter
element of six helicopters. The UN-AU command staff believes that the force
will only have 9,000 troops when it becomes operational on January 1, 2008. The
government constantly comes up with new obstacles, the latest one being a
prohibition on night flights. The UN has protested, and may simply ignore this,
and other government attempts to cripple the peacekeeping force.
December 1, 2007: A company (130 men) of Chinese
Army engineers have shown up in Darfur, as part of the peacekeeping effort. One
group of Darfur rebels declared China an "enemy" (because of its
support of the Sudanese government) and threatened to attack the Chinese
November 29, 2007: A $250 million contract to build
support infrastructure for the Darfur peacekeeping force was let on a no-bid
basis in order to save time. However, members of the Security Council are
concerned that the contract may violate UN contracting rules. The last thing
the Darfur force needs is a delay in building support facilities.
November 27, 2007: The Sudan government said that
it would not allow peacekeeping troops from Thailand and Nepal to participate
in the UN-AU hybrid force in Darfur.
Meanwhile, the pro-government Arab tribes of Darfur
are having more "inter-tribal" conflicts. These exacerbate the fragile security
situation in Darfur. The tribes are fighting over water rights and land use
rights. Trouble has spread among "Arab" tribes, who are fighting over many
resources they stole from the "African" tribes they chased from the
land (and into refugee camps).
After a meeting in South Sudan, Darfur rebels have
reached a cooperation agreement of sorts. Five small factions have formed an
umbrella group called the United Resistance Front (URF). Several factions that
once belonged to the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) have agreed to
coordinate their negotiating positions. It is not clear that the SLM/A has
actually been "reconstituted" as some reports suggest. There are still a
struggle for leadership positions among the faction leaders.