Darfur: A Report from a Hopeless Conflict

by Robin Forman

The conflict in Darfur has left at least 200,000 dead in its wake. So far. The conflict has also driven more than two million people from their homes since rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government in 2003.

And today (Thursday, Jan. 10), Sudan admitted that its troops opened fire on a joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping convoy in Darfur.

That’s right. They opened fire on a peacekeeping convoy.

Sudan’s ambassador to the United Nations had previously denied the government was responsible for the attack. On Wednesday, Sudan's Ambassador Abdalmahmoud Abdalhaleem, insisted that Darfur's rebels, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), not government forces, were behind the assault.

A spokesperson for the U.N. maintained Sudanese soldiers fired light weapons and rocket-propelled grenades at the U.N.-A.U. Mission in Darfur (the joint peacekeeping operation is known as UNAMID) for at least 12 minutes as the convoy headed for the western Darfur town of Tine late on Monday.

A spokesman for the Sudanese armed forces said the attack was the result of a “shared mistake.”

A firefight that lasts 12 minutes is merely a mistake?

The army spokesman noted that the peacekeeping convoy failed to ask for permission to pass through the area. The U.N. has insisted it did tell the Sudanese army about the convoy’s route in advance.

Regardless of who you believe, the problem lies in that there was any shooting at all and that it continued for longer than a few seconds. Does it really take 12 minutes to determine you are shooting at a peacekeeping convoy?

U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno told the U.N. Security Council that the convoy of more than 20 "clearly marked white vehicles" had been traveling at slow speed when it was hit. Guehenno reported that the movements of the convoy had been reported to Sudanese armed forces and rebels in advance.

In response, the Sudanese armed forces spokesman said the peacekeeping convoy shouldn’t have been traveling at night.

The attack left a Sudanese driver in critical condition after he was shot seven times.

Just another day of charges, counter-charges and violence from a genocidal war the world doesn't seem willing to stop.

(The photo of children in a refugee camp in Darfur is from mknobil of Pittsburgh, PA via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License. If you are interested in more information on Darfur, please check SaveDarfur.org.)

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