My comments on the African Union soldiers in Darfur have sparked a range of interesting emails, and some of them are simply too good to keep to myself.
An aid woker in South Darfur writes: "A few dozen AU troops have finally arrived in Kass, and so far they seem to be taking a phenomenal amount of time setting up their tents. I haven't seen them play any football yet, but the locals tell me that they are barbecuing (!) monkeys."
On a slightly more serious note, Darfur researcher Eric Reeves writes that the Sudanese government's message on the AU in Darfur is clearly a case of: "We have allowed AU forces into Darfur, with a highly restricted mandate, only because we know that they can address deadly insecurity in very limited ways. We know that the international community does not have the courage to intervene effectively in Sudan - and we will act accordingly." (South Sudan and Darfur in the Wake of John Garang's Death, August 11, 2005)
Some people who know more about this than I do have pointed out that the mandate is not the issue - it's up to commanders to interpret their mandate, and they are as much to blame for the mission's limitations as anyone else. (It's got to be said that there is some truth to this: I've met a few AU commanders who seem to be less interested in protection issues and more interested in telling the aid agencies how to do their jobs, along the lines of "Isn't it about time you started a livelihoods programme for the IDPs?").
The displaced men and women probably know even less about 'mandate issues' than I do. And while it may sound naive, I have to admit that - of all the statements I have heard on the African Union forces - their simple observation of "There is still no one taking away the guns from those people who attacked us" the most relevant of all. Pity that the people who matter aren't listening.
Tags: Sudan, Darfur, aid worker, African Union, monkeys, mandate, guns, protection