SUDAN WATCH: African Union force faces grim obstacles in Darfur

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

African Union force faces grim obstacles in Darfur

"Colonel Muraina Raji, the commander of about 800 troops based in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, said peacekeeping here is possible, but not with the resources he now has at his disposal," writes Lydia Polgreen (NYT/IHT May 17, 2006) from Menawashei, Sudan:
"If they had given us the resources, we could do this," he said. "My sector is very big but I have only one battalion. If I had three battalions, I would be fine."

As it is, his officers just make do with what they have.

Armed only with a thick notebook, Kadangha, the Togolese military observer who has been here for 10 months, marched into the South Darfur village of Menawashei to assess the security situation. He has been here many times before, and the story is always the same - Arab bandits on camels and horseback attacking non-Arab villages. Sometimes they only steal; sometimes they rape and kill. That day he received a grim report of both.

Kadangha listened and carefully took notes as villagers described the vicious attack by Arab militants last week. The militants killed one woman, shot six others and raped 15 women, witnesses said.

The village sheik, Omar Muhammad Abakar, was not happy to see the major.

"I don't want to talk to you," he said. "I have given you so many reports, but you did nothing. Many rape cases were reported and you conduct many patrols. But you have done nothing."

This is something Kadangha hears every day. He takes dozens of reports and sends them to the cease-fire commission, made up of representatives of the warring factions, but nothing ever happens to the violators.

Taking reports and making patrols is nearly all the African Union is mandated to do. Since arriving in 2004, the African Union force has been here to monitor - but not enforce - the ceasefire agreement signed between the rebels and the government that year in Ndjamena, Chad's capital.
Note, the report points out such sensitive issues as the disarmament of pro-government janjaweed militias, scheduled to be complete by October, will take place under the auspices of the African Union force, which is ill- equipped to handle its current, limited mandate, never mind potentially explosive new duties. Also,
Because of financial problems, the African Union soldiers are paid irregularly. Many have not received their pay in two or three months.

Yet their work is difficult. They patrol under a punishing sun from morning till night, each with just a small bottle of water to drink and no food.

Darfur's nearly 520,000 square kilometers, or 200,000 square miles, are vast and forbidding, crossed by just one major paved road. Going a few dozen miles can be a dusty, bumpy half-day affair. A journey of 120 kilometers, or 75 miles, more usually requires an overnight trip.

The African Union force is small enough that, spread out, each soldier would oversee an area larger than Manhattan.
[They all deserve medals]


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