Posted by: sean | September 5, 2006

African Union forces to leave Darfur?

In Sudan, Khartoum is trying to stop the African Union force currently in Darfur from being folded into a larger UN force with a stronger mandate as called for last week. Khartoum has been massing troops at El Fasher, getting ready to attack the rebels in a move that will likely involve many more dead civilians and the genocide that has become a force of habit in Khartoum’s counter-insurgency strategy.

The AU force has always been under-equipped (both in terms of matériel and mandate), but its financial resources and mandate are about to run out at the end of the month. The Sudanese government has given the AU a choice: either continue as is with funding from the Arab League, which unsuprisingly supports Khartoum, or leave:

[T]he commander of the African forces in Darfur, Gen. Collins Ihekire, said in an interview last week that accepting the money would leave the African Union hopelessly compromised.

“It could become a kind of blackmail,” General Ihekire said. “The viability of the force would depend on the charity of Sudan and its friends.”

This is an obvious attempt to stop the force from being incorporated into a UN force, and Mustafa Osman Ismail, President Bashir, recently said, “Sudan will not accept those troops to be transformed into part of a UN force.”

I’m not sure how this can be countered. Perhaps Khartoum is hoping that the EU will give more money to the AU force in order to keep it from Arab League money, thus maintaining the status quo.

In any case, the AU has decided to end its mandate on 30 September. It is unclear though if this is the final word. The AU might be deciding to call Khartoum’s bluff, and the fact that the latest cease-fire was brokered and monitored by the AU might raise the issue of the cease-fire disappearing when the AU mandate expires. But then again, this might be just what Khartoum wants.

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