Peacekeepers in Darfur remain critically short of manpower and have less than half the equipment they need a year into their mission.
Reuters reports that the joint United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has to date only managed to get 58% of its forces on to the ground in its first 12 months, thereby narrowly missing lowered deployment targets.
The wire service adds that even then, those peacekeepers that are deployed are short of vital equipment, including helicopters, armoured personnel carriers and medical gear.
“It’s not good enough,” UNAMID spokesman Reuben Inaju told Reuters. “It is up to the donor countries to live up to their promises so that the force can act.”
UNAMID, which is supposed to keep the peace in a region about the size of Spain, has faced serious delays in transporting its troops, police and equipment into the violent western region.
Commentators have blamed both UN bureaucracy and obstruction from the Khartoum regime for the hold-ups.
The United Nations initially hoped to get 80 percent of UNAMID’s 26 000-strong force into the country by the close of its first year on 31 December.
In October officials said the target was unrealistic and lowered it to 60 percent.
But figures seen by Reuters show there were just 12 377 UNAMID soldiers and 2803 police officers in Darfur at the end of the year, totalling barely 58% of full deployment.
“That is in terms of personnel,” said Inaju. “But in terms of enabling materials like helicopters and APCs (armoured personnel carriers), we are only at about 40% cent of full capacity.”
The Reuters calculations contradict UN figures that put the deployed force in excess of 60% – and therefore on target. The UN News Centre says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week “confirmed that troop levels have exceeded 60%.” The UN says the 12 374 blue helmets it records as deployed amounts to 63% of the 19 555 military personnel authorised by the Security Council.
Meanwhile, two new contingents of Nigerian police officers “trained in high-risk operations” have joined UNAMID in recent days.
The units – each comprising 140 personnel – bring the total number of Formed Police Units (FPUs) serving with the mission to five, following the earlier arrival of units from Bangladesh, Indonesia and Nepal.
FPUs are specialized, self-sufficient and fully mobile rapid reaction units that are entirely composed of police officers from a single contingent, with expertise in crowd management and other police tactical operations.
The Nigerian police will be deployed in West Darfur, and UNAMID expects to have 19 FPUs once at full strength.
Reuters adds that international experts say 200 000 people have died in almost six years of fighting in Darfur. Mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government, accusing it of neglect. Khartoum, which mobilised mostly Arab militias to crush the uprising, denies accusations by activists that it committed genocide during the counter-insurgency.
The situation has since collapsed into a chaotic conflict, involving bandits, insurgent splinter groups, government troops, warring tribes and lawless militias. UNAMID took over from a beleaguered African Union force in January 2008.
South Africa has about 600 soldiers and 165 police in country.