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U.N. Resources Scant to Protect Darfur Refugees

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U.N. Resources Scant to Protect Darfur Refugees


U.N. Resources Scant to Protect Darfur Refugees

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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The United Nations is supposed start deploying its biggest peacekeeping operation in the world in just a couple of weeks. It would protect the millions displaced by the conflict in Darfur. But U.N. planners are still short of helicopters and some key units. Activists are growing frustrated with the shortcomings of the international response to what the U.S. has called a genocide.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: African Union mediator Sam Ibok captured the mood best when he said recently he's having a hard time thinking of any good news out of Sudan.

Mr. SAM IBOK (African Union Mediator): We don't see any light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe the light that we see is the light of an approaching train. And that's very troubling for many of us.

KELEMEN: He was part of the latest effort to revive Darfur peace talks, though most rebel groups didn't come and have splintered even further. Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Ibok said part of the problem is that they see the government in Khartoum failing to follow through on a 2005 agreement that ended a separate and even deadlier conflict with rebels in the south of Sudan.

Mr. IBOK: The comprehensive peace agreement runs the risk of unraveling, and if that happens, then you can forget about peace in Darfur. You can even forget about peace in the Sudan.

KELEMEN: The rebels in the south have worked out most of their differences with Khartoum and have agreed to rejoin the government later this month. But peace efforts on Darfur and western Sudan remain stymied.

And a top U.N. peacekeeping official, Jane Holl Lute, says she's worried about the plans to deploy a large and mobile peacekeeping force jointly run by the U.N. and the African Union.

Ms. JANE HOLL LUTE (Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, United Nations): We are concerned. It's very clear that without the full support of the Sudanese government as has been promised this mission will not succeed.

KELEMEN: The government in Khartoum wants only African troops in Darfur and has rejected key units, such as Nordic engineers, a Thai police battalion, and special forces from Nepal. Sudan has also imposed restrictions on night flights and water rights.

Lute says it has been hard slogging. And in an interview, she said U.N. member states haven't even contributed enough helicopters.

Ms. LUTE: The member states of the international community continue to be rhetorically extremely strong, and we need them to match that rhetoric with the resourcing.

Unidentified Group: Save Darfur now.

KELEMEN: At a recent rally in Washington, actress and activist Mia Farrow expressed frustration at the slow pace of the international response.

Ms. MIA FARROW (Actress): Agonizing. And if it's agonizing for us, the real agony is the people in the camps, the people who are terrified day and night; no safety for them for almost five years - way too long. It's past time that the international community steps forward.

KELEMEN: She was speaking outside the Chinese embassy wearing a T-shirt that read Genocide Olympics - with a question mark at the end. She said China, the host of the 2008 games, could still bring Olympic ideals to Darfur by using its influence in Sudan, holding up oil contracts or stopping arms sales.

Ms. FARROW: There is no way that Khartoum could be thumbing its nose at the international community for this long without the full support of China.

KELEMEN: Though Chinese diplomats did not come out to meet Farrow, Beijing special envoy in Darfur, Liu Giujin, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies it's not fair to exaggerate China's influence in Khartoum.

Mr. LIU GIUJIN (Chinese Envoy to Darfur): We are sincere and we are positive in making our own part of a contribution to find a long-lasting fundamental solution to the Darfur issue.

KELEMEN: China has contributed 315 engineers to help the new peacekeeping operation. The U.S. hasn't offered troops but has been transporting African troops to Darfur and encouraging others to contribute.

As of January 1st, the U.N.-African Union hybrid force is to take over from AMIS, a weak and underfunded African Union force already there. But Jane Holl Lute says Darfurese will mainly see different uniforms, not yet the strong mobile force the U.N. has been planning.

Ms. LUTE: There will be the raising of the U.N. flags. They will be wearing - the force will be wearing blue berets. But largely it will be a rehatted AMIS force initially.

KELEMEN: And she cautions it will take time to get up to the 26,000 peacekeepers and police authorized by the U.N. Security Council.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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