UNAMID's Agwai: Darfur rebels have been emboldened by the international community’s almost exclusive focus on Khartoum to deliver peace
"These men with guns do not represent their peoples, the vast majority of whom yearn for peace. The movements have had it too easy for too long. It is time for them to demonstrate that they are serious about peace. They must lay down their weapons and sit around the negotiating table with the government”. - UNAMID commander, General Martin Luther Agwai of Nigeria
From Radio Dabanga, Tuesday, 18 August 2009:
Leaving UN-commander Darfur: ‘Rebels do not represent their peoples’
EL FASHER – The UNAMID force commander, the Nigerian general Martin Luther Agwai will hand over his duties to a new force commander Lieutenant General Patrick Nyamvumba of Rwanda. He will be the commander with effect from 1 September.
The transmission of powers will take place today. The ceremony will be attended by Al Hag Atta Al Mannan on behalf of the government. Also Minni Arkuoi Minnawi, senior assistant to the president and the only rebel leader who signed the Darfur Peace Agreement, will attend.
Martin Luther Agwai blamed mainly the rebel movements for the current stalemate in the Darfur conflict. For the Indian national newspaper he said:“When the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) was signed in 2006 less than a handful of movements were involved in the conflict. Today there are something like 30.He defended himself against criticism for not been able to provide security for the Darfurian population by stating that
As the movements have splintered into new factions, the prospects for a settlement have diminished. For too long these men have escaped censure, benefiting from the international community’s almost exclusive focus on the government in Khartoum to deliver peace. In fact they have been positively emboldened by it.
These men with guns do not represent their peoples, the vast majority of whom yearn for peace. (…) The movements have had it too easy for too long. It is time for them to demonstrate that they are serious about peace. They must lay down their weapons and sit around the negotiating table with the government”.‘There’s no peace for us to keep. The Darfur conflict has lasted almost as long as World War II, with the prospects of a lasting settlement looking less likely than ever”.He also blamed the lack of effectiveness of UNAMID for the lack of equipment, troops and helicopters. During his command UNAMID lost 39 people, most due to violent attacks. Amongst them were 24 troops, 9 police, 1 military observer, 1 international civilian and 4 local civilian (Source figures: UNAMID website).
Photo: Lt Gen Nyamvumba's tour of duty will be from 1 September 2009 for a period of one year. Three generals competed for the post in an interview that was conducted in New York on 5 May 2009. (MOD, Rwanda)
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Article (from Sudan Watch archives) by AFP, Wednesday, 12 August 2008:
Darfur rebels are no saints, says UN-AU military chief
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) — The military commander of the UN-African Union mission in Darfur on Tuesday urged the world community to put as much pressure on the fragmented insurgency in the war-torn Sudanese region as it does on the Khartoum government.
Martin Luther Agwai, force commander of the joint mission known as UNAMID, told reporters that while it is popular to "bash" the Sudanese government, the reluctance of Darfur rebels to negotiate was often forgotten.
"It takes two to tango," Agwai noted. "Sometimes we forget about them (the rebels). Every day, they say they are fighting for the poor people of Darfur and yet what have they done to show even interest to go to the conference table?
"I am not in any way saying that the (Khartoum) government is clean. But what I am saying is that also the other side cannot be said to be saints. So my appeal is that the pressure should be exerted on both sides."
He said there were now around 30 different rebel groups involved in the conflict, compared to four when the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed in 2006.
Agwai called on Darfur insurgents to unite and come to the negotiating table, which he said was the only way to achieve peace.
"They will have to end on a negotiation table because militarily it's clear no side can win the war in Darfur," he said. "But if you have 15, 20 parties wanting to go to conference table to talk, nothing will come out of it."
The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people have been killed and more than 2.2 million displaced since the conflict in Darfur, a region the size of France, began in February 2003. Sudan claims 10,000 have died.
Since UNAMID began its operations nearly eight months ago, only a third of the 26,000 authorized troops have been deployed.
Agwai said he hoped the force would reach 80 percent deployment by December and full deployment by next August.
UNAMID has said it needs 18 transport helicopters and six attack helicopters which are crucial to give the force the required mobility and firepower.
But no country has so far have provided them.
On July 8, seven UNAMID peacekeepers were killed and 22 injured after they were ambushed by up to 200 heavily-armed gunmen. Agwai said lives could have been saved if the mission had had helicopters.
"Unfortunately, we are sent to the boxing ring with our hands tied behind us," he said, referring more broadly to the lack of adequate equipment and logistical support. "But we will try kickboxing if we can't do hand boxing."
Agwai, a former chief of defense staff of the Nigerian army, was appointed UNAMID force commander in September 2007 after initially turning down the job.
"I was told I was going to command the largest ever UN peacekeeping force on earth," he said. "Little did I know that it's going to be on paper and not in reality."
Photo: Le général Martin Luther Agwai. Source: collectifvan.org: A la Une - Le général Agwai poursuit sa visite auprès des troupes stationnées au Darfour.