UN prepares to send peace-keeping force to Darfur
|The Guardian , 27 Janvier 2006|
The UN is preparing to intervene in the Darfur crisis in Sudan after admitting that an African Union mission has failed to curb the violence that has seen two million people displaced and thousands killed.
With violence increasing over the past few months, Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, said the replacing of the AU force with a UN one is "now inevitable". The UN plans to put in a bigger, better-financed force with a mandate not just to monitor events as the AU had been doing but to fire back at and hunt down those responsible for the ethnic cleansing.
Mr Annan said he wished efforts to resolve the crisis had borne fruit. "Alas, the opposite is true. People in many parts of Darfur continue to be killed, raped and driven from their homes by the thousand. The number displaced has now reached two million, while three million [half the total population of Darfur] are dependent on international relief for food and other basics. Many parts of Darfur are becoming too dangerous for relief workers to reach."
The crisis began three years ago when the mainly Arab Sudanese government sent in its army and air force to support a militia group, the Janjaweed, against the predominantly black African farmers in Darfur and against rebel forces.
Reluctant to send in western forces, the US, Britain and other western countries compromised by supporting the AU, which sent in a 12-strong monitoring team two years ago. Although the AU force has grown to 7,000 today, it is largely ineffective, short of equipment and money and unable to protect even refugee camps.
Transition from an AU mission to a UN one will take about nine months. The UN security council is expected to meet in the next month or two to give its approval, and a further six months or so will be needed for logistical arrangements.
In spite of threats from the international community, the Sudanese government has failed to rein in the Janjaweed or even stop its air force bombing villages.
Mr Annan said: "Any new mission will need a strong and clear mandate, allowing it to protect those under threat by force if necessary, as well as the means to do so. That means it will need to be larger, more mobile and much better equipped than the AMIS (African mission)."
The UN said it wanted the US and European countries to help form a tough mobile force. But this has met with resistance so far in Washington and Europe and the preference is for a largely African force.
The AU, at its summit in Khartoum last week, exasperated western diplomats by failing to discuss in any detail the Darfur crisis. But it did agree a resolution supporting the take-over of the force by the UN. The AU said it was struggling to find the £10m a month needed to maintain it.
MPs on the Commons international development committee yesterday called for "credible sanctions" against Sudan.