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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 104

U.N. Mission in Darfur Jeopardized by Attacks

By Thalif Deen, UN Bureau Chief, Inter Press Service

United Nations, 03 October,(IPS): The 15-member U.N. Security Council, which remains paralysed over the killings and military repression in Burma (Myanmar), joined hands Tuesday to condemn the "murderous attack" last weekend that killed 10 African Union (AU) peacekeepers in South Darfur, Sudan.

A presidential statement, reflecting the views of the entire membership, condemned the attack and demanded "that no effort be spared" to identify and bring the perpetrators "to justice".

Last week, the Council was unable to reach consensus on a proposed similar statement on Burma because of opposition from China on the ground that the demonstrations and killings in that military-run country were a "domestic" dispute that does not warrant international condemnation.

The attack against peacekeepers in Darfur, reportedly committed by a rebel group, took place on the eve of peace talks scheduled to take place in Libya beginning Oct. 27 under the joint chairmanship of the United Nations and the African Union.

The Security Council said "that any attempt to undermine the peace process (in Sudan) is unacceptable".

"The attack on the AU force was unconscionable," Bill Fletcher, Jr., former president of TransAfrica Forum, told IPS.

He said that the attack points to the grave need for a significant AU force on the ground with a full mandate for self-defence, as well as the proper equipment to carry it out.

"The attack further demonstrates that there are various forces contending for a more significant place at the table in the lead-up to a settlement," he noted.

"Darfur necessitates the combination of an effective peacekeeping force plus the proper diplomatic pressure on the various sides in order to guarantee a long-term resolution of the crisis," Fletcher added.

In July, the Security Council unanimously approved the creation of a 26,000-strong hybrid U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur.

Described as the world's largest single peacekeeping force -- ranking ahead of the 17,000-strong U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo -- the new hybrid force was expected to incorporate the existing African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS).

Known as UNAMID, the U.N. African Mission in Darfur is scheduled to have its management, command and control structures in place by this month. And by the end of December, it was expected to take over operations from AMIS, which has been in Darfur since 2004.

The United Nations has said that violence and instability plaguing the Darfur region of Sudan have resulted in more than 200,000 people being killed and two million others forced to flee their homes.

The attack on an AMIS camp by several truckloads of Darfur rebels threatens to undermine not only the upcoming peace talks but also the deployment of UNAMID, which will comprise troops mostly from African nations. It also prompted Senegal to threaten to pull out its troops.

Ambassador Leslie Kojo Christian of Ghana, current president of the Security Council, told reporters Tuesday that UNAMID's responsibilities and commitments have not changed following the situation in Darfur.

African countries, he said, should remain committed to the U.N. mission in Darfur.

Asked what this attack signifies, a longtime U.N. political observer told IPS: Firstly, it "creates a very visible contradiction to the main narrative of the 'Save Darfur' campaign: a campaign that pictures the government of Sudan and the Janjaweed militia as the sole bad guys and the rebels on the other side as the good guys."

Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said: "Here are the rebels proving what many within the United Nations have been saying all along: that they bear considerable responsibility for the bloodletting".

Both sides, therefore, share blame and there is no simple, one-dimensional way to understand things.

"But at a time when a major peace initiative is underway and a peace conference coming up, this attack seems especially serious and threatens to upset the political process," he added.

The rebels, therefore, are here playing the spoilers. The attack proves once again that peacekeeping forces cannot by themselves solve a conflict when there is no political agreement to be maintained, he added.

True, the U.N. hybrid force will have greater military capacity and force protection capability, he said. But in an enormous country, flooded with arms and impoverished potential militia recruits, even the most robust force will not be able to prevail by might alone.

"This, too, disproves the 'Save Darfur' discourse, which insists on military intervention, by Washington, if necessary," he added.

In a statement issued Monday, the London-based Amnesty International warned that the attack not only puts the lives of civilians at further risk but also jeopardizes the peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

Tawanda Hondora, deputy director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme, said "This attack further underlines the urgent need to ensure that the AU in Sudan has the resources necessary to enable them to carry out their responsibility to protect civilians, free from attack -- and that the hybrid AU-UN force [UNAMID] be deployed to Darfur as soon as possible."

Amnesty has also called for "a full, independent and transparent inquiry to be conducted by the AU and the U.N., and for the results of the inquiry to be made public."

- Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency -

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