Sunday, October 24, 2004

Darfur yet again

Time goes on, meetings take place, negotiations end in nothing much, large sums are allocated. Yet nothing much seems to change in Darfur. Either the problem is insoluble or it needs a different solution.

The last solution but one was the African Union’s peacekeeping forces. This solution came to nothing, apparently, because despite the large amounts of aid that has gone to various African countries that have not improved their economy, the AU has no money for peacekeeping forces. Presumably, some of its members could withdraw some of the forces from the ongoing war in DR Congo, but nobody appears to be suggesting that.

Earlier this week the AU has proposed to increase its presence in Sudan from under 400 troops to more than 3,000. These will be tasked with guaranteeing security in an area that is described as being the size of Iraq and reining in the Janjaweed militias, something the government of Sudan (a member of the UN’s Human Rights Commission) has not been able to do, probably because there is a fine and easily crossed line between the militias and the Sudanese police and military.

The AU still needs money. EU foreign affairs supremo Javier Solana, at present in Addis Ababa has announced that the European Union will provide half the funds for the AU’s programme in Darfur, a matter of 80 million euros (c£56 million). Presumably, this sum, to be approved on Monday will be over and above the already allotted €130 or so million, supposedly paid out to help the people of Darfur.

It is surely not much to ask that some account be given of these large sums. Have they achieved anything? Shall we ever know what the money handed over to the African Union be used for? Who is providing the other half? And what of the situation in northern Uganda, worse, according to some commentators, than that in Darfur? As the late great Bernard Levin used to say, I only ask because I want to know.

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