Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 21 November 2005

Canadian tanks muscle AU forces

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By Alfred Taban, The Khartoum Monitor

Nov 20, 2005 — The decision by Canada to send to Darfur 105 Armoured Personnel carriers (APCs), three of which arrived on Friday 18 November, is good news. The African Union (AU) troops in Darfur need to be boosted. The AU was given a thankless job with a weak mandate. Until recently, it had only about 3,000 troops in Darfur, but was given the job of policing an area the size of France. Short of funds, transport facilities, weapons and even bullets and demoralized, the AU troops in Darfur became easy targets.

The hooligans of Darfur took advantage. The AU confirmed that the government painted some of their planes and vehicles with African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) insignia and launched attacks on rebels and civilians alike. The rebels retaliated, targeting the innocent AMIS. Then last month, four Nigerian peacekeeping troops and two Sudanese drivers working for the AU troops were murdered. Two of them are reported to have been beheaded. The cease-fire signed last year in Ndjamena lies in ruins. AU troops which came to monitor the cease-fire and protect civilians themselves now need protection. This is where the tanks rolling into Darfur are of utmost importance.

AMIS needs to show the bandits of Darfur, be they rebel forces, government troops or their Janjawid allies that the mission has the muscle. That it can now intervene as fast as possible to cease-fire violations and atrocities being committed on civilians.

The arrival of the tanks is definitely good, but they alone will not bring peace to Darfur. AMIS needs more helicopters to be able to fly rapidly to areas of conflict, report and verify what is happening.

Then there is the issue of numbers. The number of troops in Darfur is currently less than 7,000. What can 7,000 troops do to police and area with a population of six million people? The number of troops should be doubled in the next one year.

More important is the mandate of the troops. The AU troops are dealing with a groups of hardened criminals, robbers, killers, thieves, rapists and cheats. You do not send someone into such a den of criminals with feeble "monitoring" mandate. You send someone into such a place with a full mandate to enforce peace. This is how you can ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered and civilians protected. The rest of the job is completed at the peace talks as the problem in Darfur is a political problem which requires political solution.



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