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African Union peacekeepers in Darfur need better preparation

HREA evaluates training of Darfur peacekeeping forces

For immediate release
11 July 2007

The training of the peacekeeping forces in Darfur can be improved in order to better protect civilians. That is the conclusion of an evaluation report prepared for the United Nations. The 7,000 African Union (AU) peacekeeping troops are currently the only protection for civilians against the government-sponsored Janjaweed militias and rebel forces in the armed conflict in Darfur, a conflict in which so far 250,000 have died and at least 1.5 million persons have been displaced. "It is difficult to imagine how, with all the international attention on Darfur, killings, displacement and other human rights violations continue to take place. Better training of peacekeepers, combined with a mandate that has more teeth, can only result in better protection of civilians," said Felisa Tibbitts, Executive Director of Human Rights Education Associates (HREA), a Concord-based human rights group. Ms Tibbitts just returned from a mission to Darfur, where she evaluated the training program for the AU peacekeeping forces at the request of the United Nations (UN).

Over 4,000 civilian police, military observers and protection officers of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) have been trained in human rights and international humanitarian law, gender-based violence, protection of children and internally displaced persons in an effort to sensitive peacekeepers to the kinds of violations prevalent in Darfur. The training program, organized between June 2006 and June 2007, was the first UN multi-agency cooperative effort carried out during a peacekeeping operation, and involved the United Nations Development Program, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and UNICEF and was funded by the government of Japan.

The current AMIS mandate calls for peacekeepers to carry out tasks such as patrolling in order to deter armed groups from committing hostile acts against the population, verifying the security of internally displaced persons, investigating and reporting allegations of violations of the Darfur Peace Agreement, and monitoring the service delivery of the Sudanese police. "My feeling is that these activities should be a primary focus of any in-mission trainings sponsored by the UN and I believe that they are in agreement", says Ms. Tibbitts. "In the meantime, AU peacekeepers also need to be empowered to use force in carrying out their mission. The current situation in Darfur actually leaves them endangered and handicapped in terms of protecting civilians."

The security situation in Darfur deteriorated again last November, resulting in a renewed need to ensure that not only civilians are protected but also humanitarian agencies. Violence against the AU peacekeepers has also been on the rise, which has compromised the ability of unarmed troops to protect through their presence. Firewood patrols, intended to protect women when they leave camps to collect firewood, continue but to a lesser degree as civilian police who carry out these patrols now need to be accompanied by protection forces.

While Ms. Tibbitts was in Darfur, the UN Security Council passed a resolution to send a "hybrid force" of peacekeepers from both the UN and African Union, which has been approved by the government of Sudan. This promising development is likely to result in the deployment of 13,000 additional peacekeepers by January 2008. This deployment is intended to support a new political solution for Darfur through a renegotiated peace agreement.

A blog of Ms. Tibbitts' visit to Darfur can be found at www.hrea.org/darfur.


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HREA is one of the leading organisations worldwide dedicated to education and training in and for human rights. Each year HREA trains hundreds of educators, human rights defenders and legal professionals around the world.

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