Peacekeepers tell of terror in Darfur rebel attack, says the Scotsman. A force of 1,000 Darfuri rebels assaulted an African Union Peacekeeping base while the men were sitting down to dinner, killing 10 and looting the camp. In a prolonged attack that lasted until morning, utilizing support weapons and armored vehicles of their own, the "rebels" stole everything that wasn't embedded in concrete.
The 1,000 Darfuri rebels waited until sunset, the end of the Ramadan fast, to begin their assault. Some of the outgunned African peacekeepers, caught by surprise, fought back. Others fled into the scrublands. At the end of the attack, ten of them were dead.
"We were just preparing for dinner when the first rocket hit us," one peacekeeper said. Another soldier, fighting back tears, said: "The fighting was terrible."
The peacekeepers repelled the first attack after dusk, but the rebels returned and a fresh battle raged for hours. Survivors said the rebels used several armoured vehicles and rocket-propelled grenades - an indication they possess heavier weapons than previously believed. ...
The attackers stormed the camp at about 4am on Sunday, as some of the peacekeepers ran out of ammunition. The AU troops took refuge in a ditch in one corner of the camp, where dozens of empty shell casings from AK-47s were strewn in the sandy soil. "Once we ran out of ammunition, we all laid down in that ditch," Abu Bakr, one of the peacekeepers, said.
The rebels looted the camp on their way out, taking six armoured personnel carriers, a dozen jeeps, fuel, AK-47s and boxes of ammunition. The scene at the base in the aftermath was chaotic. Plastic tents where the peacekeepers slept still smouldered, giving off an acrid smell. The shell of an armoured personnel carrier, apparently hit by rocket-propelled grenade fire, was still burning, its tyres melted. Prefabricated houses that served as the administration headquarters were riddled with bullet holes.
AU troops, some wounded and barefoot, were being ferried out by helicopter to safety, while Sudanese troops stood in combat positions nearby. "They're in a state of shock. They looked like people who've just survived death," said Rodolphe Adada, the chief of the 7,000-member AU mission to Darfur, who is set to head a new joint AU-UN force.
Speaking after the emergency session, Sudan's U.N. Ambassador Abdalmahmood Mohamad welcomed the Council's condemnation and said there is no doubt rebels were involved. "We are happy that the Security Council has now identified the perpetrators of this heinous act, and we expect the Security Council will take the necessary measures against those impeding the peace process," he said.
But Russia's U.N. Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, expressed disappointment, saying the statement was not strong enough. "We wish it were stronger, but we have to live with what was practical and possible. There were some members of the Security Council for whom, unfortunately, it is difficult for some reason, to point fingers at rebel groups. There was an effort to avoid any kind of reference to rebel groups, which have reportedly been the source of this murderous attack," he said.
And the members of the Security Council who found it difficult to point a finger at the rebel groups were the US, UK and France. The BBC says:
South Africa wanted it called a terrorist attack but the US, Britain and France urged caution on naming those who might be behind the killings, saying it is not yet clear who carried them out, says the BBC's Laura Trevelyan at the UN in New York.
The reason for the Western reluctance to lay the blame on the doorstep of the rebels, as you might have guessed, is that the two major rebel factions -- the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) -- are opposed to the government in Khartoum. Hence, any condemnation of the rebels would indirectly become an endorsement of Khartoum, which up until this point has been publicly regarded as the "bad guy" -- together with their Janjaweed militia in the humanitarian disaster in Darfur.
The Global Security backgrounder on the fighting in Darfur describes the conflict as partly ethnic and partly regional in origin. It is a fight between the Fur and Arab-dominated Khartoum; between the Fur and Zaghawa. And between all the adjoining countries for the control of the region. "Darfur region is located in the western part of the Sudan. It is bordered by Libya in the North, Chad in the West and the Central African Republic in the South West." The Sudanese Liberation Army is backed by Eritrea. Both the JEM and the Sudanese Liberation Army receive support from Chad. And then there are the sinister latter-day night riders. "The Sudan Liberation Army began battling an Arab militia called Janjawid [Janjaweed, meaning 'a man with a horse and a gun'] as well as government troops in the Darfur region of western Sudan. The Janjawid have been pushing local farming communities off their land in a bid to have access to the resources. Critics accuse the Sudanese government of manipulating traditional ethnic tensions and pursuing a policy of 'Arabisation' in Darfur, in order to maintain a support base there." In short, it's a witches' cauldron of such fragmentation it would make Iraq look like a suburban gated community by comparison.
Any peacekeeping force would have to interpose itself into this ethnic/regional African war for any kind of brokered settlement to hold. That means a force able to cope with the savage violence likely to be encountered there and to take and return fire from all directions.
African Union military observers in Darfur reported that Sudanese militias have burned civilians alive. ... While the SLM and Janjaweed are primarily to blame for many of the attacks and raids, the Sudanese government has done virtually nothing to help the AU force that was assined to enforce the ceasefire. To add insult to misery, Khartoum has failed to carry out its ceasefire obligation to disarm or control the Janjaweed.
It has lately been fashionable to urge a US withdrawal from Iraq and a redeployment into Darfur. Whatever the merits of that may be, does anyone seriously think it possible to solve the ills of the world without having to deal with violence, as these African Union peacekeepers have discovered to their dismay?
Romeo Dallaire, the man who commanded the UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda, offered this advice to Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, who is about to lead the UN mission into Darfur:
You can anticipate being let down by everyone on whom you depend for support, be that troops, funding, logistics or political engagement.... Bear in mind that whoever fails you will, in the end, be the most active in blaming you for whatever goes wrong.
Yes, but the first and most important responsibility of any general is to set the conditions of victory. This means, as it meant in Rwanda, not accepting battle on hopeless terms. Because unlike soldiers defending their country who must sometimes meet the enemy at a disadvantage, UN generals should be able to tell diplomats when they do not have the means to do the job. Otherwise you will wind up like Dallaire, with post-traumatic stress disorder telling anyone who will now listen about how he was sent down the river to hunt a T-rex with a popgun.
Dallaire recounted the myriad difficulties in maintaining a rickety peace in Rwanda. By the time isolated skirmishes escalated into large-scale massacres, he was hamstrung by the UN's bureaucratic inertia and a meagre contingent of troops.
He recounted his dismay at seeing under-equipped international reinforcements arrive in Rwanda. A Ghanaian contingent came with no vehicles – the vehicles were strapped to the deck of a cargo ship and wouldn't be delivered until after the bloody 100-day genocide. And a Bangladeshi regiment turned up with scant munitions and no rations. "The first thing the Bangladeshis said when they stepped off the plane was `Where do we eat?'" Dallaire recalled.
Nearly a million Rwandan deaths later and here we are again.