Home | Comment & Analysis    Monday 16 August 2004

Foreign troops run gauntlet of government displeasure


By Moyiga Nduru

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 16, 2004 (IPS) — Television footage aired over the weekend showed a group of Rwandan soldiers dancing and clapping their hands. With AK-47 assault rifles firmly strapped across their shoulders, the 150 troops sported green berets adorned with African Union badges as they waited to hear a speech from President Paul Kagame.

A few hours later, the soldiers were airlifted on an Antonov plane to the troubled Darfur region in western Sudan. There, they will protect 118 unarmed military observers from the African Union (AU) who are monitoring a shaky four-month truce between government and rebels from the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army and the Justice and Equality Movement.

Human rights groups and aid workers say the cease-fire has been largely ignored by pro-government Arab militia known as the Janjaweed ("men on horseback"). These paramilitaries have been accused of carrying out a campaign of terror against three ethnic groups - the Fur, Masaalit and Zaghawa - which are suspecting of providing support to the rebels.

The Rwandan soldiers are the first foreign troops to set foot in Sudan since aid and human rights groups began putting pressure on the international community to deploy peacekeepers in Darfur.

Before the soldiers left, Kagame noted that their mandate would also include using force, if necessary, to protect civilians.

"It makes no sense to protect the peace monitors while the population is ignored and left to die," the Rwandan leader told reporters.

Indeed, even as the Rwandan soldiers were landing in Al Fashir, violations of the cease-fire were reported to be continuing. Jan Pronk, the UN special envoy to Sudan, acknowledged this week that Janjaweed fighters were ignoring official instructions to end attacks.

But in Khartoum, Sudanese Foreign Affairs Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail insisted that the AU peacekeepers, which also include a 150-strong contingent from Nigeria, will be restricted to guarding the observers. They are not to engage any of Darfur’s belligerents, he added.

Were this warning issued to soldiers from any country other than Rwanda, Ismail might find his words landing on receptive ears.

However, the present generation of Rwandans brings a unique perspective to bear on the Darfur crisis. Leaders, troops, members of the public - all have experienced genocide: the 1994 killings in which upwards of 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were slaughtered by pro-government Hutu militias known as the interahamwe ("those who fight together" in Kinyarwanda).

The genocide occurred under the nose of a United Nations peacekeeping force that lacked a clear mandate to intervene when action might have prevented the killings from gaining momentum.

Sudan’s wariness of the Rwandan troops was further demonstrated by the welcome the soldiers were given - or perhaps denied. No senior military officials were on hand at Al Fashir airport when the soldiers touched down.

The AU has said it would like to send up to 2,500 peacekeepers to Darfur. Last week, AU chairman Olusegun Obasanjo, who is also the president of Nigeria, urged Sudan to allow the deployment of more personnel. Khartoum’s refusal to do so would result in intervention by western troops, he warned.

The UN Security Council has given Sudan 30 days to reign in the Janjaweed or face sanctions. President Omar al Bashir has said that his government will meet this deadline - although Vice-President Ali Osman Taha has sounded a more cautious note, warning that officials will need at least three months to disarm the Janjaweed.

Adding its voice to the chorus of concern about the situation in Darfur is the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, which has urged Khartoum to allow humanitarian aid to reach the displaced.

In a statement issued last week (Aug. 11), the bishops also echoed the findings of a UN report from Aug. 6 that held the government of Sudan ultimately "responsible" for the crisis in Darfur.

"We ourselves have personally witnessed some of these atrocities during visits to Sudan. Because of this, the African Union (AU) in particular must take action against the Government of Sudan and exclude it from all AU organs such as its Human Rights Commission," observed the bishops.

"In addition, (the AU should) put pressure on the Government of Sudan to implement the African Union provisions on good governance and the promotion of human rights."

As the diplomatic wrangles continue, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) says it has started to airdrop food into the most inaccessible parts of Darfur. According to the WFP, the food will assist more than 70,000 displaced people and local residents who have been cut off from aid because of the rainy season and insecurity.

But here too there are problems: a temporary shortage of jet fuel in Sudan has hampered the airdrop. Khartoum recently imported 10,000 tonnes of jet fuel to address the shortage, and the WFP says it is holding talks with government on measures to guarantee sufficient fuel for its humanitarian operation.

"Unless the low levels of jet fuel force a temporary suspension of the air drops, WFP plans to continue them throughout the rainy season into September, by which time all the locations should once again be accessible by road - the mainstay of WFP’s campaign to get food to the hungry people of the three Darfur states," added the UN agency.

The views expressed in the 'Comment and Analysis' section are solely the opinions of the writers. The veracity of any claims made are the responsibility of the author not Sudan Tribune.

If you want to submit an opinion piece or an analysis please email it to comment@sudantribune.com

Sudan Tribune reserves the right to edit articles before publication. Please include your full name, relevant personal information and political affiliations.
Comments on the Sudan Tribune website must abide by the following rules. Contravention of these rules will lead to the user losing their Sudan Tribune account with immediate effect.

- No inciting violence
- No inappropriate or offensive language
- No racism, tribalism or sectarianism
- No inappropriate or derogatory remarks
- No deviation from the topic of the article
- No advertising, spamming or links
- No incomprehensible comments

Due to the unprecedented amount of racist and offensive language on the site, Sudan Tribune tries to vet all comments on the site.

There is now also a limit of 400 words per comment. If you want to express yourself in more detail than this allows, please e-mail your comment as an article to comment@sudantribune.com

Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.

Comment on this article


The following ads are provided by Google. SudanTribune has no authority on it.

Sudan Tribune

Promote your Page too

Latest Comments & Analysis

Call for the release of S. Sudanese arbitrarily detained by national security services in Juba 2016-12-07 07:54:53 By Bangasi Joseph Bakosoro On 22 December 2015, at around 12pm, I received a call from the National Security Service (NSS) summoning me to their headquarters for a meeting. I drove to the office (...)

Holding accountable those enabling genocide in Sudan 2016-12-05 05:30:49 Eric Reeves As grim genocide by attrition in Darfur is set to enter its fifteenth year, as Khartoum’s claim of a purely nominal “cease-fire” in South Kordofan is belied by repeated reports of Sudan (...)

Sudan’s Civil Disobedience, a model for political change 2016-12-04 05:23:21 by Mahmoud A. Suleiman According to Gene Sharp of Albert Einstein Institution in his masterpiece book from Dictatorship to Democracy, he quoted Civil Disobedience among the 198 Methods of (...)


Latest Press Releases

Conspiracy, rumour mongering and power struggle behind alleged case of corruption in president’s office 2016-12-05 05:36:45 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 4 December, 2016 Legal Watch Associates South Sudan has been following up the alleged case of corruption in the Office of the Pesident. The case involved 16 people from (...)

Amnesty urges to investigate chemical weapons Sudan’s Jebel Marra 2016-10-12 12:52:01 Sudan: International chemical weapons investigation urgently needed into horrific Jebel Marra attacksAMNESTY INTERNATIONAL NEWSFLASH 11 October 2016 Sudan: International chemical weapons (...)

UNAMID JSR’s statement read to the media on peace in Darfur 2016-10-10 20:57:56 African Union United Nations Mission in Darfur Though the region of Darfur is relatively peaceful at this time, a small portion of Jebel Marra within Darfur continues to be intermittently (...)


Copyright © 2003-2016 SudanTribune - All rights reserved.