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SUDAN: Attack raises questions over hybrid force

NAIROBI, 4 October 2007 (IRIN) - The 29 September attack on an African peacekeeping base in Darfur has raised fresh questions about the planned transformation of the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) into a hybrid AU-UN force that includes personnel from non-African countries.

Ten AU peacekeepers were killed in Haskanita, North Darfur, and 50 others are still missing.

Abdoulaye Wade, the president of Senegal, which has contributed about 540 troops to AMIS, threatened to pull his soldiers out of Darfur if it transpired that the peacekeepers lost their lives because of a lack of equipment. One of the soldiers killed in Haskanita was Senegalese.

Senegal has promised to increase its contingent in Darfur to 1,600 as part of the evolution of AMIS into the hybrid force.

"If they died because they didn't have the arms to defend themselves, I will withdraw all the Senegalese. ... I am not going to send people to be slaughtered,” news reports quoted Wade as saying in Dakar on 3 October.

Five Senegalese troops died in an attack on the AU in Darfur earlier this year, prompting Wade to make a similar threat unless the peacekeeping mission won strong support from the UN.

Since its inception, AMIS has been widely seen as lacking the manpower, funds and equipment to make a significant contribution to restoring security in Darfur.

Insecurity in the area around Haskanita, for example, has brought humanitarian activities to a standstill for several months.

If the hybrid force, known as UNAMID, takes over according to plan, it will be the world’s largest peacekeeping mission, with 26,000 personnel, both military and civilian.

The transformation is supposed to take place on 1 January but according to the Nigerian general in command of AMIS, it will be some time before UNAMID is fully operational.

Martin Agwai told a visiting group of dignitaries, including former US president Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town, that as of January there would be 8,000 UNAMID troops in Darfur at most, just 1,000 more than the current force.

Agwai added that essential aircraft had only been promised by one country, Jordan.

"Facing the reality, how many African countries can provide troops that can fully sustain themselves here?" he asked.

Potential repercussions

Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that the attack could “lessen the interest of troop-contributing countries in Africa. Senegal and Nigeria have already threatened to act.

“It’s important the international community has to redouble its support for the mission both in terms of rhetoric and action, and that key governments voice support for the mission, demand that the mission is able to deploy without being obstructed by the government or rebels,” HRW researcher Leslie Lefkow told IRIN.

The Haskanita attack has also given rise to fears that some of the dozen or so non-African countries, including those that have expressed a willingness to contribute to UNAMID, such as the UK, Sweden, Norway and Ireland, might now get cold feet.

“Of course [other countries will be deterred]. What western nations will want to contribute now?” Julie Flint, co-author of Darfur: A short history of a long war, told IRIN by telephone.

According to Enough, a project working to end genocide and crimes against humanity, “the brutal and deplorable September 29 attack on African Union peacekeepers is a stark reminder of the threats that UNAMID … faces in Darfur.

“This attack, and the continued fracturing of Darfur’s rebel groups, also severely diminishes the prospects for success at peace talks set to begin in Libya later this month,” the organisation stated in a report issued on 4 October.

The AU was less pessimistic about the repercussions.

“I don’t think it will have any impact. The dates of the negotiations are still on. People are working to bring the parties together. The UN is preparing to deploy forces. That’s on schedule. From [later in] October they should start deploying,” AU peace and security spokesman Assane Ba told IRIN.

Asked about Wade’s threat to pull out, Ba said: “I don’t think he will go to that level.”

If the attack was an attempt to derail the peace process, “it was unsuccessful because people are more than ever determined to go ahead with the plan”, he added.

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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