Professor Alpha Oumar Konare
Chairman of the African Union Commission
Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations
Dear Professor Konare and Mr. Guéhenno,
We write to you in response to Professor Konare’s August 12, 2007 public statement that the African Union has received enough pledges from African countries to staff the African Union-United Nations hybrid mission in Darfur.
Human Rights Watch welcomes the news that African governments have responded so rapidly to the call for troops for the hybrid force. However the statement that these pledges mean the operation “would not need to resort to non-African troops” raises a number of substantial concerns. In our view, fielding the most capable force in the shortest time possible must be your overriding objective.
As you are aware, the United Nations African Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) will face enormous challenges. It will be the largest, most complex peacekeeping operation ever attempted, and will involve not only 19,555 military personnel, but also nearly 6,500 civilians, including 3,772 police. The political, logistical and physical barriers would prove challenging even for the most well-equipped and experienced troops and police.
For UNAMID to deliver on its promise—and its mandate—to protect civilians in Darfur, it will need experienced commanders, qualified engineers, and technical specialists, as well as massive logistical support. The hybrid operation must also have rapid response capabilities in each sector to protect civilians in imminent danger. The force will also require a civilian contingent, including police, who are experienced in dealing with human rights, sexual violence, and the rule of law.
The United Nations Security Council, in Resolution 1769, noted that the hybrid operation should have “a predominantly African character” and that “troops should, as far as possible, be sourced from African countries.” However, as the United Nations Secretary-General’s spokesperson has recognized, the need for specialized units and support will likely require reliance on non-African countries. The difficulties the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) has faced indicate that it may not be possible to source from Africa the full range of skills, expertise, and experience required for either the military or the civilian contingent of the hybrid force. The policing component of UNAMID has not been highlighted in recent statements from either the United Nations or the African Union. Experience from prior peacekeeping missions, however, indicates that identifying qualified police personnel in a timely manner will prove a crucial challenge.
The African Union and United Nations must be prepared to look elsewhere when necessary to field the most capable and timely force possible for Darfur. While the government of Sudan has repeatedly called for UNAMID to be staffed only by Africans, it must not be allowed to dictate the composition of the force, nor use the issue of the nationality of the troops to delay their deployment.
This new force has an opportunity to capitalize on the lessons learned by AMIS. The priority must be to ensure that a well-trained, well-equipped force is in place as quickly as possible to stem the widespread human rights violations continuing in Darfur.
UN Advocacy Director