UNAMID (the Darfur peacekeeping force) still needs helicopters, and the
UN is openly criticizing the Europeans
for not providing the needed aircraft.
The UNAMID "package" needs 18 transport helicopters and six
observation/utility helicopters. That is really a "base force" in other
words, a minimum, given the size of the Darfur region. Doubling the number of
transport helicopter and tripling the number of observation helicopters is more
realistic. Quality maintenance, however, is really more important that numbers.
If you have 36 helicopters and a 50 percent readiness rate, you have 18
choppers available for operations. If you have 20 helicopters and a 90 percent
readiness rate, you have 18 choppers available. The UN is trying to embarrass
the Europeans into backing up their words (about ending the violence in Darfur)
with deeds (providing suitably equipped troops). So far, the Europeans are
talking the talk, but not walking the walk.
December 15, 2007: China appears to be increasingly
anxious about the security of Chinese nationals in Sudan. The attack on a
Chinese oil exploration facility in Ethiopia's Ogaden last spring made it
obvious that Chinese nationals are an attractive target for insurgents and
terrorists. The Darfur rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) claimed it
struck a "Chinese" oil facility in South
Kodorfan State. The government denied the attack. However, the political
message the JEM sent was heard and received. China is one of the Sudan
government's most reliable supporters and has a veto in the UN Security
Council. Even Hollywood stars have put political pressure on the Chinese about
Chinese support for Sudan. Now it appears that Sudanese rebels are signaling
that they may treat China as a Sudan government ally.
December 12, 2007: The government (Khartoum) and
South Sudan (Juba) both said they intend to pursue negotiations over the oil
field in the Abyei region. Both sides indicate they do not want a resumption of
the "north-south" civil war. One option is "dual control." Diplomats have
suggested "an East Timor-like" deal where both the north and south share in
Abyei's oil revenues.
South Sudan has played both China cards. This past
summer South Sudanese diplomats visited China. The South Sudan approach to
China is designed to tell the Chinese that if South Sudan controlled of the oil
field China would still have access to the region.
South Sudan has also used "the tribal card. South
Sudan recently described Abyei as , "
the ancestral home of the Dinka
King." The SPLA is viewed by many as a "Dinka liberation army," since the
Dinka tribe supplied most of the organization's leaders and fighters.