SUDAN WATCH: Politics Delay U.S. Airlift Of Peacekeepers to Sudan

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Politics Delay U.S. Airlift Of Peacekeepers to Sudan

It's galling to learn that two U.S. planes were ready and waiting on the tarmac in Rwanda to fly African troops to Darfur yesterday. The soldiers could have been there by now. The regime in Khartoum are quick to defend themselves and their own positions but are as slow as slugs when it comes to anything that involves saving other people's skins. Here is an extract from today's report out of Kigali in Rwanda by Emily Wax of the Washington Post's Foreign Service:

Well before the sun rose over the city's winding hills Monday, Col. Charles Karamba was wide awake, ready to give his 120 Rwandan army troops an energetic send-off to western Sudan.

They were to be the first troops airlifted to Darfur on U.S. military planes as part of a two-week mission to move African Union peacekeepers quickly into the war-torn region, where 1.5 million people have been driven from their homes and where violence, hunger and disease have killed tens of thousands.

Two C-130 transport planes, sent by the U.S. Air Force from Ramstein Air Base in Germany, stood ready on the rain-soaked tarmac outside the Rwandan capital. Karamba sat by his phone, waiting for the orders to board.

Instead, just after 10 a.m., word came that the Rwandans would not be leaving quite yet. According to diplomats, that was because Nigeria, whose president heads the African Union, had demanded to go first. Although the airlifts from Kigali were planned last week, diplomats said, Nigerian officials wanted their troops to arrive first as a matter of prestige. Full Story

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