Kevin Knodell here:
With David off to Chad to report on the refugee crisis, I thought I would help explain some of the origins of the current situation. A large portion of the refugees came from Sudan where (unless you’ve been living under a rock) everyone knows that a war is raging.
Sudan has been in almost constant civil war since the 1980s. By 2003, the Second Sudanese Civil War (fought between the Arab Muslim government in Khartoum and the separatist African Christians in the south) was beginning to wind down. However, as the war in the south was ending, a new one was beginning in the west. Rebels in the Darfur region began an uprising, accusing Khartoum of neglect. The Sudanese government struck back with overwhelming military force, and began hiring Arab nomads in Darfur to attack black African rebels. In 2004, a cease-fire was put in place, and the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) was formed to monitor the peace agreement. (It should be noted, that most of these African militaries lack proper air assets, and needed a lift from someone who had them.)
AMIS was able to make a difference through activities like escorting women to collect firewood, and observers did an admirable job documenting the conflict. However, the accomplishments of the green helmeted troops were often overshadowed be the force’s shortcomings. From its inception, the force would suffer constant setbacks and hardships. There were periods of time were their pay was not received as a result of logistical problems. They were tasked with monitoring a region the size of Texas without the proper manpower or equipment to secure the region. Mobility and coordination were strained by a lack of air assets, as well as basic communication equipment like radios. Only the South African contingient was able to conduct regular night patrols as only they were properly supplied with night vision goggles.
Several deaths of A.U. peacekeepers throughout their time in the region began to reveal that they were not only ill-equipped to defend civilians and enforce the cease-fire, but often lacked the firepower to defend themselves. This lack of supply would tragic consequences, when roughly 1,000 attackers (the alignment of which is still unknown) overran the A.U. base in Haskanita, killing 10 peacekeepers. (Pictured.) After Sudanese security forces arrived, they were seen (and photographed) looting the base. This would be the turning point that would finally prompt the international community budge (slightly). The U.N. agreed to speed up the formation of a “hybrid force” to bolster efforts in Darfur. Meanwhile, thousands of displaced Darfuris sought refuge in Chad, only to find themselves in the crossfire of ANOTHER civil war, now prompting the deployment of an E.U. force to protect them from banditry and violence.