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In Sudan, a Sense of Abandonment

An Underfunded Mission

With Darfur edging toward chaos and no Western country willing to send in troops, the burden of trying to contain the situation has fallen to the 700 African observer forces stationed there. The fledgling African Union says it needs $220 million to finance the mission for one year and is still $80 million short.

Beginning late last month, in its first and only regional operation to date, the U.S. military airlifted several hundred African soldiers from Nigeria and Rwanda into Darfur as part of a plan to increase troop strength to about 3,000.


Bukadi Bash, 13, lies ill with malaria at the Sureaf camp, South Darfur. The African residents are being moved to another camp, closer to Arab-held land, a move many say they fear. (Photos Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)

_____Photo Gallery_____
Refugees in Darfur A Continuing Crisis: Saida Koomis Idris, 16, is treated by nurse Hasanea Ahmed for wounds she received when Sudanese policemen moved internally displaced people to a new camp.
_____Crisis in Sudan_____
Q&A: Darfur A brief explanation of the issues and current humanitarian situation in Western Sudan.
Photos: Sudan's Rebels
U.S. Urges Aid to Spur Peace in Sudan (The Washington Post, Nov 15, 2004)
Sudanese Fearful Following Relocation (The Washington Post, Nov 13, 2004)
After Accord, Sudan Camp Raided (The Washington Post, Nov 11, 2004)
Sudan, Rebels Reach Accord On Darfur (The Washington Post, Nov 10, 2004)
Sudanese Rape Victims Find Justice Blind to Plight (The Washington Post, Nov 8, 2004)
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But some experts assert that a force 10 times that number is needed, and that the troops need a stronger mandate so they can intervene in fighting and criminal activity. Some experts and diplomats have also raised concerns that the Africans, who lack military vehicles and helicopters, may not be adequately equipped for the task.

"Sudan is something that all members of the international community have to deal with," said Howard F. Jeter, who was U.S. ambassador to Nigeria from 2001 to 2003. "The Nigerians . . . are willing to risk their own lives to bring stability on the continent. We have to help them do it right."

Dallaire said Darfur needed a force of up to 44,000 peacekeepers, who would set up checkpoints and safe aid corridors, disarm combatants and be given the power to protect civilians. To date, the government of Sudan has refused to permit a peacekeeping force to enter the country.

"The mission of observing will do nothing except destroy the credibility of African Union troops," Dallaire said. He said it was unfair to criticize observer troops as "inept when it's not their fault. Observing people getting beaten up and dying is useless."

Already, the African troops have faced volatile situations in which they are greatly outnumbered and unable to help. Last week, more than 100 Sudanese police officers with guns, sticks and teargas overran a refugee camp in an attempt to force occupants to move to another location. Some refused to leave and took refuge in a mosque, while the soldiers careered through the camp in trucks, swinging their batons.

Two African Union officers arrived from a nearby base to investigate, but they were armed only with notebooks and cameras. Lt. Col. Henry Mejah, a Nigerian, said he tried to interview a Sudanese commander, but the man yelled at him and stormed away. Other police officers screamed at Capt. Rex Adzagba Kudjoe, a Ghanaian, when he tried to take photographs of the site. Shortly afterward, the two officers left.

Two days later, another bulldozer rammed into the camp, crushing homes that had just been rebuilt. Residents said they were beaten when they refused to leave for a new camp in a remote and vulnerable location. An 8-year old girl, Manahula Jacob Ali, was shot in the foot. Sadia Hamiss Adriss, 16, had a zigzagging gash in her cheek.

"Why are they still bulldozing and shooting and beating people?" Matina Mydin, a nurse treating victims in a nearby clinic, demanded angrily. "Where is the will of the international community?"

Shifting Deadlines

Several factors have contributed to the lack of international attention to Darfur, according to experts and officials.

The Bush administration has backed a peace deal in an older, separate conflict between the Sudan government and rebels in the south. Even though it has accused the Khartoum government of genocide, it is reluctant to jeopardize that agreement by pressing too hard on Darfur.

Proposed U.N. sanctions have been frozen because of a veto by China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Sudan is China's fourth-largest supplier of oil. Meanwhile, deadlines for the imposition of sanctions keep slipping.

First, the Security Council set an Aug. 30 deadline for Khartoum to rein in the Janjaweed. One month later, the council voted to consider unspecified sanctions if the situation did not improve. Last week, the European Union warned Sudan it would impose sanctions if security in the Darfur region did not improve within two months.


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