From the Ground in Darfur


The struggles to deploy and fully equip the joint UN-AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) are well-documented and oft commented-upon. Less frequently does one hear of what the peacekeeping force is doing to protect the people of Darfur. Yesterday, the mission’s representative, Rodolphe Adada, took to the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal to give readers a sense of what peacekeeping on the ground actually looks like.

Writing from Al Fasher, Darfur, Adada confidently assures the world that, despite the international community’s slow response in providing equipment and personnel, “We are not sitting on our hands waiting for the troops and material to arrive.”

Every day our blue-helmeted peacekeepers carry out patrols right across Darfur, an area the size of Texas. They defend thousands of innocent Darfurians, such as women from the camps gathering firewood to cook meals for their families. One of the most disgusting aspects of this conflict has been the widespread rape of women by armed thugs on all sides. Unamid is carrying out more and more night patrols to increase this protection around the clock.

Critics say we are hunkered down, yet the facts speak for themselves: In January, when our mission began, we carried out 271 patrols. Last month, it was 644, or more than 20 a day.

Our peacekeepers intervene on a daily basis across the length and breadth of Darfur to calm tensions arising from cattle losses, water distribution and land ownership – issues at the heart of the conflict. These missions are critical, successful and welcomed by Darfurians, but they do not make international headlines.

Some of our more impassioned critics call on us to intervene more forcefully. I would remind them that Unamid is a peacekeeping force. We are here to keep a peace that doesn’t exist. It is the duty of the belligerents – and there are many – to make peace. As Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, our force commander, stated recently, even if we were at full deployment our peacekeepers are not here to stand between rival armies and militias engaged in full-scale combat.

Adada’s last point bears remembering. Peacekeepers are deployed to ensure compliance with an existing ceasefire, something that does not exist in Darfur right now. They are not armies, and are not meant to square off against opposing armies. Given the unwillingness of both sides of Darfur’s conflict to commit to a meaningful peace accord, as well as the inability of Member States to furnish UNAMID with what it needs, Adada’s peacekeepers are doing the best they can.

Read the whole op-ed here.