The African Union (AU) is sending a team to Darfur to assess their lack of cash and equipment- finally. For months, AU officials have been trying to speak up about the woefully inadequate support they are getting from the international community.
"If you are supposed to move people with 20 vehicles and you are moving them with six vehicles, you can understand the problems," Festus Okonkwo, the military head of the AU mission, told Reuters today.
On the ground, I've heard a lot worse. There is no fuel for AU cars, never mind helicopters. Ammunition runs out (as it did during the attack that killed four Nigerian peacekeepers and two AU contractors in October). Soldiers routinely show up at aid agency compounds to ask if they can have some mosquito nets or even blankets. Civilian police officers walk around the camps unable to communicate with people because they have not yet sent them any translators. It's clear the AU has not been able to do its job - and there is still no one actually protecting those who need it most.
The AU has been remarkably transparent about many of these shortcomings - and clearly outlined challenges like the ones I've just talked about in their assessment report in March.
Unfortunately, they still aren't getting the support and the cash they need. The US congress recently cut back on $50 million of funding they'd already pledged to the AU, and here in Khartoum everyone seems to be more interested in talking about how and when the UN can take over from the AU rather than discussing what could be done to help the troops who are already there.
In the meantime, the people in the camps are not getting any safer. If the last AU assessment is anything to go by, the forthcoming report on the state of the AU mission could well be a very useful and self-critical piece of work. My worry is that - as with the last one, when the team recommended a troop increase to 12,000 soldiers - no one will pay very much attention to it.