BBC Map of Sudan

Earlier today, the UN reported that the first installment of a joint UN-AU peacekeeping force arrived in Darfur. The force is 25 people strong, 12 police officers and 13 military staff officers, this group arrived to support the African Union mission (AMIS) which has been struggling to quell militia violence in the region.

The group is part of a time-released entrance into the region for the UN. The Khartoum government had previously been vehemently opposed to any presence of the UN in Darfur. However, after many serious diplomatic efforts by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Sudanese President, Omar el-Bashir, agreed to a force made up of both UN and AU troops.

AMIS troops have been in the region for most of this year now and maintain a current strength of only 7,000 troops and police officers. Back in September, it was reported that most AU troops were going to withdraw in the middle of September at the end of the time they were originally committed for. Although the troops ended up staying, this mission has been a rough test for the AU. The force has remained largely ineffective and does not bode well as the AU’s first real military mission.

Under the current loosely-defined plan, the UN will ship in a total of 186 staff, mostly military and police advisers, as well as equipment. The ultimate goal of the UN is to deploy a UN-AU mission of 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers, almost tripling the current AMIS force.

On December 27th, Mr. Annan told reporters that the UN would deploy the smaller force as quickly as possible as “a way of testing the [Khartoum] Government’s willingness to cooperate.” This willingness of Mr. Bashir is very important to ascertain, as he remains unwilling to allow the larger UN force to be deployed to his country. The Government has also gone back on promises made about Darfur before. However, the current international threats of a no-fly zone and trade sanctions make it more likely that they will stick to what they say this time.

Or at least the world hopes so.

[Edited by Simon – Minor touch up]

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