Only African troops in Darfur

No more than two weeks has passed since the United Nations passed Security Council resolution 1769 – authorizing a hybrid peacekeeping force in Sudan – and Khartoum is already dancing its way around the stipulations agreed to by the attending members. After a meeting with the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, it was announced that the 26,000 hybrid UN-African Union troops would be drawn entirely from African countries.

So is Mr Konare’s statement a challenge to the authority of the UN?

Those close to the African Union argue it is not.

On the question of command for the mission, they point out that the hybrid force commander, Martin Agwai, was appointed by the African Union.

And they suggest that although Africa could easily provide 20,000 troops, it does not have the ability to pay the $2 billion a year price tag, or airlift them into position in Darfur.

So the idea that this will be a totally African force should be seen as an aspiration.

Rather, Mr Konare’s statement should be seen as an attempt to re-assert Africa’s authority on the continent and to re-assure the Sudanese leadership that they will not be over-run by foreign troops.

Even if the meeting with Konare wasn’t meant as a stall tactic on the part of Khartoum, it is obviously creating a number of wrinkled brows in the international community. Curiously, the African Union forces that have been on the ground in Darfur have not only encountered opposition, but have routinely faced problems of funding.

Not surprisingly, even though the UN Security Council has passed a resolution to create a hybrid force, it has yet to fund the operation.

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