Lack of resources delays deployment

KHARTOUM - The head of the UN peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region has highlighted an urgent need for helicopters, saying the global community should donate them or the entire mission must be reviewed.

KHARTOUM - The head of the UN peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region has highlighted an urgent need for helicopters, saying the global community should donate them or the entire mission must be reviewed.

The international force, set to number 26000, will formally replace a small African Union (AU) mission on January 1, but still lacks six combat and 18 transport helicopters, vital to operate in a war-torn Sudanese area.

"It's true we are in a very difficult logistics situation," Rodolphe Adada said in an interview in Khartoum, five weeks before the new joint AU-UN force is supposed to start protecting civilians.

Congolese politician Adada is AU-UN special representative to Darfur, where war between poor black tribes and government- backed Arabs has left more than 200000 people dead from fighting, famine and disease since 2003.

Another 2,2 million have been displaced in what the UN has called the biggest humanitarian crisis facing the world today. "The international community has got its back to the wall and some are asking: 'really, is it impossible for the entire international community to mobilise 24 helicopters?'" said Adada, who also heads the outgoing AU force.

"There was an offer from Jordan but ... it was withdrawn. For the moment, no other country (has come forward)," he said.

On Tuesday, the head of the UN peacekeeping force, Jean-Marie Guehenno, complained that Sudanese government red tape and lack of resources are delaying the deployment of the peacekeepers, but Adada appears more concerned about the helicopters.

"The helicopter problem is a big concern. If we are not sure of getting the helicopters, if we are sure there will be no helicopters, everything needs to be reviewed, the entire strategy has to be reviewed," he said.

Adada said air transport and cover were vital to support the troops set to deploy across the vast terrain with limited roads.

Meanwhile, Sudan expert Eric Reeves deplored the "beleaguered response of European, Western hemisphere and international military-capable countries to provide these 24 transport and tactical helicopters".

"It is a scandal. This mission is in jeopardy because those nations will not do what is necessary," said Reeves, of Smith College, Massachusetts.

"What does it say of the UN if it cannot solicit successfully 15 months after the initial resolution to protect civilians in Darfur?" asked Reeves, alluding to the embarrassment that failure could bring the UN.

The government in Khartoum, which has been accused of fanning the nearly five-year conflict in Darfur, has refused to accept contingents from Scandinavia, Thailand and Nepal as part of the majority African force. - Sapa-AFP

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