Thursday, March 23, 2006


Taken from the BBC News website
Written by Jonah Fisher

The African Union is faced with the most difficult decision in its short history.

Created three years ago with the idea of "African solutions for African problems" at its heart, it must decide whether to handover its first major peacekeeping operation to the United Nations.

Seven thousand AU troops are deployed in Darfur but they have failed to end a conflict that has so far killed more than 100,000 people and left millions in overcrowded camps.

The last year has seen a steady deterioration on the ground with militia attacking civilians, rebel movements splintering and the arrival of armed groups from neighbouring Chad.

Given the mess they were sent to resolve many feel the AU never stood a chance.

Originally deployed to observe a ceasefire that existed in name alone, the force was strengthened on a piecemeal basis until it reached its current size.

In a few areas the peacekeepers have made a difference - keeping the parties apart and encouraging some people to return.

But until recently they had to rely on pick-ups for transport leaving them vulnerable to attack and reluctant to step in when trouble flared.


On those occasions where AU forces have found themselves in the midst of things it has gone badly.

In October 2005, four Nigerian soldiers and two contractors were killed in an ambush.

The very next day, 38 AU soldiers were taken hostage without a shot being fired. It was clear they were losing the respect of the warring parties.

Maj Gen Collins Ihekire is the Nigerian Force Commander of the AU in Darfur.

"If someone hasn't got wings and you say he has failed to fly - I don't think you can call that failure," he said when asked how he assessed then achievements of the AU mission.

"If we're given what we request for then we'll get the job done." Maj Gen Ihekire would like to see AU assault planes and more troops but that now seems unlikely.

The United States and the European Union, who have funded the AU until now, are reluctant to give any more and want the UN to take over.

A UN mission they say would be bigger, better equipped and more capable of aggressively responding to Darfur's myriad armed groups.

Its estimated budget of $1bn would also be funded directly by all UN members.

About turn

Having regularly criticised the AU mission throughout its one-and-a-half years in Darfur the Khartoum government has suddenly become its biggest supporter.

Sudanese diplomats have toured the continent lobbying African leaders and looking for the funds to keep the mission going. They have even threatened to quit the AU if things do not go their way.

On the domestic front, Khartoum's newspapers have led a government-backed anti-Western campaign.

Bounties have apparently been put on the heads of two Western diplomats and international journalists were labelled terrorists by a government minister.

President Omar al-Bashir has promised to make Sudan a graveyard for foreign intervention and government-backed militia say they are preparing for a holy war. The message they are trying to send is clear - Sudan is not safe for the UN.

"We don't want intervention in our internal affairs," Jamal Ibrahim, the foreign ministry spokesman said.

"We don't want it to lead public opinion into not respecting its own government."

Saving face

The irony of the Sudanese government's position is that it already has a large international presence.

Ten thousand mainly Asian peacekeepers are being deployed to southern and eastern Sudan and the UN's gleaming white four-wheel-drive vehicles can be seen all over the northern capital, Khartoum.

In Darfur, the AU has scores of international observers and advisers, and at least one American in every camp.

But with money running out AU foreign ministers must either find $200m a year to keep the mission going or handover responsibility.

Any UN takeover is likely to take between six and nine months - and the transfer would initially involve little more than a change of hat colour for the soldiers, from green to blue.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has approached the US and Nato for assistance but it is likely that Western help would be logistical and the bulk of troops remain African.

Having waged such a high profile campaign against UN troops a mechanism may yet be found to enable the Sudanese government to save face.

Western diplomats, however, are convinced that in the long-term, Khartoum and the AU will have little choice but to accept a bigger and more robust UN mission in Darfur.

-Jonah Fisher
To see the full report - click here


At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The terrible tragedy of Darfur, is important to bring to all our attention. Unlike Rwanda Darfur at least benefited from journalists providing very quickly an accurate picture of the events as they unfolded. Concerning the focus of this blog for Rwandan survivors how long are the BBC committed to building this space for VOICE for the Survivors. Far too little attention has been paid by the BBC and others to tell of the continued challenges and plight of Survivors living day by day with the consiquences of the genocide.

At 11:06 AM, Blogger Team Rwanda said...

Tharcisse Mukama

About the history of segregation & resulting conflict in Rwanda

I was born in Ruhengeri and so were my father, grandfather and great-grandfather. I finished school in 1942 and married in 1950. Then in 1959, King Rudahigwa died and Kigeri was put on the throne. Jérôme Bicamumpaka opposed this and passed word to the Hutu about eradicating Tutsi. War broke out. The next thing we knew, our houses were being set on fire by the Hutu amongst us. They were our friends and neighbours, but they had been taught propaganda about Tutsi. Nevertheless, they didn’t kill anybody then; it was just burning houses. We all ran to the churches. The people who had gone to the provincial town were all packed in cars and sent off to Bugesera. I had my own land, so I went back to it. Vitari Basekwa, the leader of my hill, told me to go to Bugesera right away. I didn’t even sleep at my house that night. Early next morning, I left for Nyamata as a refugee with my two kids, my wife, my mother and grandmother.

They sent us to this area because it was a bad place with forests, wild animals and the tsetse fly. But the land was fertile and we had good rain, so we had good harvests and settled there. In 1963, those who had fled to Burundi invaded, but their attack failed. Then there were some killings of Tutsi, but only of those who were rich or educated. We stayed at home but others ran to the church. In 1966, there were killings again. We took refuge in the church. Soon it was over and we went home. Every time we went back, we had to rebuild our homes. Every time they killed, they also looted and burned. If you had crops, you would find empty fields. If you had a cow, it was eaten. You had to start all over again. That was the way of life for Tutsi in Bugesera. In 1973, Habyarimana removed President Kayibanda in a coup. In 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) attacked from Uganda.

Then in 1994 Habyarimana’s plane was shot down. Things got bad. People ran. They came to Nyamata, and because there were roadblocks no one could go back. Killings started here on 11 April. We fought for two days. Up to then, they had been fighting with bows and arrows, which we also had. On the third day, we saw a man called Murekezi going up in the air, then we heard the gunshot and he fell to the ground. He was our best archer. When this happened, we ran. The next morning we saw fires everywhere and heard gunshots from all corners. Most of the people ran into the Ntarama church, but we ran into the tall grass in the valley. My wife died there; she was with my children. I had eight children; six died in the genocide.

Before 1959, Hutus and Tutsis got on well together. There was no problem at all. The Hutus weren’t mean, it was other people who taught them bad things. They taught them first to burn houses and then, thinking that was not enough, they taught them to kill. I think things will get better, now that segregation no longer exists. In the past, we had our race written on our identity cards; first it said which clan a person belonged to, then later they changed it to race. Today, it has been removed; if things continue this way, they’ll get better. We fight segregation today. People are one. Children are taught as one, taught the same things by the same teacher. If people are united at such an early stage, they will not become separated again. Division is created by bad leadership. The Rwandan government is fighting against segregation. This gives me hope. I do have hope in the future. The most important thing everyone asks for is peace – even if you have only a little to eat, to be able to eat it in peace. Even though I’m old, I ask for peace and I have it now. I am sad, but I have peace. I’m in a peaceful country.


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