UN Peace-keeping missions in difficulty across Africa

By Scott A Morgan

The US Special Envoy to Sudan Mr. Richard Williamson made an interesting announcement on Oct. 28th. In an interview with the Reuters News Agency Mr. Williamson stated that at least 3,600 more peacekeepers will be deployed to the region by the end of the calendar year.

Currently the mandate for this mission calls for a total number of 26,000 soldiers and police to be deployed to the strife-ridden Darfur Province. It is estimated that there is only 40% of the allowable peacekeepers currently on the ground at this time. It has also been known that the pace of the deployment has not been acceptable to the US Government due to the apparent apathy.

The numbers of peacekeepers on the ground were shocking and abysmal. On Oct 10th that number was only 10,527 UNAMID peacekeepers inside Darfur. What is troubling about this number is what happens when it is applied to the recent report to the Security Council by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon about whether or not this mission is being successful or not.

According to the Secretary-General at least 300,000 people have had to flee their homes so far this year. Sadly there appears to be no end in sight for the violence. The US feels that Sudan President Al-Bashir has limited the scope of deployment of the UN Mission by placing unreasonable conditions on the peacekeepers. There is equal amount of criticism against the UN itself for “dragging its feet”.

There is ample reason to criticize the Bush administration as well. Most countries that have the ability to commit troop carrying helicopters have failed to do so. The United States, being one of those countries, has two major conflicts going on in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a legitimate claim but surely the US can come up with other ways to assist this UN Mission.

The fact that this mission is only at 40% capacity along with the retreat of MONUC in the Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo together are a bad sign. The lack of support for these two regions of long standing strife is troubling. The inability of the UN to halt the fighting in these two regions will call into question the ability of the UN Secretariat to coordinate and plan future peacekeeping missions worldwide.

The augmentation of these missions has to be a priority for both the UN and other concerned countries. Hundreds of thousands of individuals are in flight from their homes. Others have been killed as a result of acts of violence. There is an attempt to restore order in Darfur while it seems that there is a retreat in the DRC. Let’s hope that there is success in both efforts.

The author publishes Confused Eagle on the internet and comments on US policy towards Africa.

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