UNAMID (the UN-African Union hybrid force in Darfur)
still suffers from a key equipment shortage: helicopters. Earlier this year the
"helo shortage" received a lot of attention from UN leaders. There were
promises, but the helicopter requests remain unfilled. The UN needs 18
transport helicopters and six attack helicopters. Now UN officers are
complaining that claims of attacks by both the Sudan government and rebel groups are difficult to investigate because the observers lack air
mobility. In milspeak, the "assessment missions are constrained," meaning the
observers can't get to the battle site before the carnage is over and the
militia, or soldiers, or guerrillas have gone. The helicopters would also serve
a scout role to protect UN convoys by detecting ambushes. The UN has chartered
some non-military helicopters as a means of moving staff from headquarters in
EL Fasher to outlying areas.
Only 10,000 of the 26,000 peacekeepers have arrived, with about half the
force expected to arrive by the end of the year. But because of a lack of
helicopters, the peacekeepers have not had much impact on the fighting in the
huge region. The government sees this failure as another victory for its
strategy of denying its crimes and lying to the UN. Sudan has also quietly
called on its Arab and other foreign allies to pressure the UN to get war
crimes charges dropped against the Sudanese president.
September 17, 2008: The government is still waging its political war
against the International Criminal Court. Now the government has enlisted
Algeria in its effort to get the UN Security Council to get the court to delay
acting on a prosecutor request an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar
September 15, 2008: Heavy fighting continues in North Darfur state. A
series of new attacks by the army and pro-government militias began in late
August. It became clear that the effort was something more than the typical
government offensive, when rebel groups reported on September 7 and 8 air
attacks followed up by ground assault on towns in North Darfur state. NGOs and
UN aid workers report that the civilians who fled that round of fighting are
now without food. One sources reported that some of the villages in the area
had not harvested their crops - suggesting that the attacks were timed to drive
the villagers away from their homes and fields before harvest time. If this
sounds like an attack to drive people into starvation, well, it probably is.
The government rejected charges that it was conducting a sustained offensive. The
government's official line is its forces are "securing roads" to protect them
September 11, 2008: The Government of South Sudan (GOSS) said that the
national elections scheduled for July 2009 "could be delayed." This has been a
possibility for a long time. The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement required
the GOSS and Sudan's national government (Khartoum) to work out border and
voting issues. Many of those issues have either led to trouble on the ground
(like Abyei) or not been addressed at all.
September 10, 2008: The UN accused Sudan of launching a series of attacks in
Darfur on unprotected civilians. Some of the attacks under investigation
occurred in July. For example, UN investigators determined that Sudan aircraft
attacked targets in Darfur 21 times during the first three weeks of July 2008.
Most of the strikes were launched by Antonov transports rigged as bombers.
September 9, 2008: Sudan issued an apology to Kenya. Sudan acknowledged
that "armed raiders" operating from Sudan had stolen cattle in Kenya and
conducted at least one kidnapping.
September 8, 2008: Sudanese forces fought with the Sudan Liberation Army
(SLA) in a series of battles in Darfur. An SLM spokesman reported that Sudan
used Antonov transports to bomb three towns in North Darfur state: Tawila,
Disa, and Birmaza. The government forces took control of Disa. The SLM claimed
that civilians in the area had "fled into the desert." In warfare like this
exposure (to include subsequent starvation) of displaced civilians usually
kills more people than the actual attacks.