Multinational Operations in Darfur

Since it gained independence in 1956, Sudan has experienced internal warfare for all years except only ten. Before it was separated into two, Sudan was the biggest country in Africa and was the headquarters of the Council of Arab League. Resources, territorial conflicts, ethnicity and religion have remained the biggest cause of internal conflicts in Sudan. Many of the areas affected by Islamic insurgents are those that exist within the geospatial areas of Sudan. The international communities have tried everything from economic sanctions to diplomatic initiatives without success. Millions of people have died, and many of them have been displaced and some injured.

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The war in Darfur, which was a guerrilla war between the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement, was as a result of a struggle for power.  The Sudanese government was being accused of favouring Arabs and oppressing non-Arab citizens. This is what some analysts have termed as the Sudanese genocide. It remains a subject for debate, whether or not crimes against humanity in Sudan can be described as genocide. One side of the war was comprised mostly of the official Sudanese Army while the other side was formed of militia groups that were rebelling against the government.

            Thousands of Sudanese citizens have lost their lives; some as a result of direct combat, while others died due to starvation and displacement. Thousands of citizens have been displaced as a result of the war with most of them seeking refuge in the neighboring countries. This massive displacement of people and forced migration of others is what many analysts have described as acts of genocide by the government officials. The conflict in Darfur is believed to date far back to the dispute for resources between the semi-nomadic community and the agriculturalists. Sudan is predominantly Muslim, and as such the conflict is more about equitable distribution of resources and less of a religious conflict.

            The war in Darfur has been a subject of debate in many quarters for a while now. There has been a general agreement about the fact the war has targeted ethnic groups and, as result, crimes have been committed against humanity. Analysts have, however, disagreed about whether genocide has occurred in Darfur. The international community has shown oustanding concern what the war did in Darfur, and in 2006, the United Nations formed the commission of inquiry into the war. The commission found out that, even though the government of Sudan had not treated the war as an act of genocide, the crimes that had been committed against humanity were far more serious and heinous than genocide. The methodology of this report has, however, been questioned by many analysts, among them Eric Reeves who has written largely about the Darfur war.

The International community

            The public opinion, such as the United Nations, non -governmental organizations and world leaders, has held the view that the war in Darfur has degenerated into genocide. Economic and legal sanctions have been put on the government of Sudan by the international community as a result of these findings, by the United Nations. The international community has responded to the war in Sudan in many ways. The first non-governmental organization to respond to the war in Darfur was Amnesty International. In 2003, Amnesty International responded to the war and later that year another organization, International Crisis Group, also highlighted the plight of the society in the war zone.

            Even then, the media did not give a lot of coverage to the war in Darfur. It was not until a human rights crusader and a resident of Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, described the war in Darfur as the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world. The war in Darfur started in the year 2003. The then United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell declared the war in Darfur genocide, in 2004. Later that year, the United Nations for Security Council also followed suit by declaring the war in Darfur genocide.

            Analysts have compared the political situation in Darfur Sudan to the unrest going on in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The insurgency in Darfur has been going on for years now with a strong Al Qaeda influence. The border in Sudan is not supervised sufficiently, and anyone can go in and out as he or she wishes. Even though, these two locations are worlds apart, many lessons learnt from the war in Afghanistan can be applied to the situation in Sudan. This is because Al Qaeda is expected to act almost the same way. The American factor also can be applied to both cases. The fact that America plans to pull out of Afghanistan may end up portraying Al Qaeda as the real freedom fighters.

            The other international body, which sought to intervene in the war, in Sudan, was the International Criminal Court. Unfortunately, Sudan had not ratified the Rome statute making it out of the international Criminal Court jurisdiction. The international criminal court, therefore, needed the United Nations to request them to intervene before they could do so. Permission to intervene in the war, in Darfur, was granted to the international criminal court by the United Nations Security Council later, in 2005. Investigations were made, and crimes against humanity were found to have been committed, but no specifics were made. They, however, did not find enough evidence to prosecute on genocide grounds.

            Later in 2007, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant of arrest for Ahmad Harun, a former minister for interior and militia leaders going by the name Janjaweed. The Sudan government, however, rejected requests to hand over the men arguing that they were not subscribed to the Rome Statute. The other person in Sudan who the International Criminal Court charged with crimes against humanity was the president of Sudan Omar Al-Bashir. Al-Bashir was charged with three counts of genocide, murder and crimes against humanity. The court stated that Al-Bashir was guilty of planning the execution of three tribal groups purely on the basis of their ethnicity. Omar Al-Bashir has never been arrested, since the government of Sudan refuses to give him up, claiming that the people of Sudan were not within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

            One of the biggest donors to the country of Sudan is the government of Britain. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged the international community to support the peace keeping mission in Darfur. The government of Britain also endorsed the decision by the United Nations Security Council to deploy more personnel for peace keeping in Darfur. They have also supported attempts by the International Criminal Court to arrest persons who have perpetrated crimes against humanity. In 2007, the army of Sudan denied claims that raids were organized on innocent villagers. After five Senegalese soldiers had been killed, in Darfur, the government of Senegal decided that they pull out of the peace keeping mission by the African Union, unless more action was taken by the International community.


            One of the major obstacles in Darfur remains logistics. UNAMID peacekeeping forces, humanitarian organizations and other non- profit organizations have tried to bring peace and tranquility back to Sudan but have been hindered by logistics. The first problem that the international community faces in Sudan is the lack of infrastructure. The vast region of Darfur does not have any tarmac ked road network. Darfur is hundreds of kilometers away from the only port in Sudan and the only international airport in Sudan, Khartoum. The difficulties in transportation make extremely hard to transport food aid around Darfur. During winter, the rains make the dirt roads even worse making the transportation of everything needed for the war much harder. When equipment is shipped to Darfur, they get held up at the Port, sometimes taking many months. When the war got worse between 2007and 2008, many transport companies discontinued their services in Darfur citing security reasons. This made worsened the situation.

            The other issue has been insecurity in the Darfur region. Banditry has been the worst of all the security issues in the regions with many militia groups depending on to finance their operations. Goods on transit have been stolen, and aid workers kidnapped in exchange for ransom money. These bandits have often sold the goods for money and used the vehicles they steal are used in the war. Their main targets are the vehicles as they need them to move around. Trucks are constantly being hijacked on the roads of Darfur, and this has led to local contractors hiking the prices of their services as a result of the higher risks involved. People can no longer walk freely and have to wait for official escort to avoid being harmed by armed militia men.

A lot of intelligence is needed by Africa Command if peace is to be realized in Darfur. Intelligence is essential for strategic planning of any operation especially the one in Darfur. Strategic planning is vital in order to plan the intervention on many levels including understanding the war zone in terms of its political, social and economic organization. If the African Command decides to go forcefully into Darfur as they did in Afghanistan, it will need to understand the operations of the militia like there locations, funding and reasons for rebellion. They also need to plan in advance how they will respond to the humanitarian crisis that such an operation would have on the community that lives in this area.

            Africa Command may need to set camp in these refugee camps as a way of protecting civilians from further attacks by the insurgents. The national intelligence of Sudan would have to work hand in hand with the international community in the peace operations, in Darfur. Historical evidence has shown that human intelligence is useful in providing information that the international operation can use in stopping the war in Darfur. Human intelligence is always informed of what the enemy is planning to do, making it easier to plan an attack. Africa Command should also make use of advancement in technology to spy on the enemy like overhead reconnaissance through hot air balloons.

            The Africa Command would need to cooperate with other countries involved especially the United States of America to fight insurgents. Information would have to be shared amongst all the parties involved through proper communication channels. This would largely depend on how the war zone is divided. Like in the case of Afghanistan, different armies would be in different areas of Darfur but all of them would operate in harmony under one umbrella body; the Africa Command. The multinational operation would have to find a way of sharing as much information as possible without exposing their sources. A clear channel of communication would have to be established so that information is passed on to the right people.

            The major problem, which peacekeeping missions face in Darfur, is that the insurgents have managed to blend in so well with the other citizens making it hard to weed them out. This has made it impossible for satellite cameras to pick them out. Insurgents do not have complicated technology and their operations have been known to be quite ‘low-tech’. This has made human intelligence the most crucial source of information for such multinational operations. Challenges will arise in sharing information with the Africa Command. This will mostly be a result of widespread corruption within the country; thus, making the sharing of intelligence a form of counter-intelligence. Language barrier will also pose a serious problem for the multinational operation since most of the citizens in this area have no education and speak only the local dialects.

            The war in Sudan has been largely viewed as a rebellion against tribal oppression. As such, some of the people who will be involved in the multinational operation may have some vested interests. This cultural diversity will create another problem that the Africa Command may have to face. Some of the aid workers, interpreters and support workers may also have vested interests and may want the war to take a certain course. Communicating the findings to all involved in the Africa Command may prove to be a difficult task as most of them speak different languages.

            In conducting military operations, certain considerations must be made concerning the environment in which the war is taking place. The operational space has to be extended to include Political, Military, Economic, Social, Infrastructure and Information of the environment in which the war takes place. The peace operation has to be planned in such a way that takes care of all the dimensions of the war. A proper military operation, therefore, is one that takes care of all aspects of Political, Military, Economic, Social, Infrastructure and Information. The best approach would be for the Africa Command to be well prepared, more aware and fully committed to countering the efforts of the insurgents. Action taken by the international community can be in the form of humanitarian action or in the form of a full combat.

            This broader perspective should be combined with a friendly force, intelligence, sensitivity to the culture of the people and a strong resolve are the secrets of a successful multinational operation. The physical environment includes the nature of the terrain, whether it is remote or an urban setting, the topography of Darfur and the weather patterns of the area. Planning is also dependent on the timing of the war in Darfur, the general tempo of operations and a projection about whether or not the public will favor the war in the coming years. A clear perspective needs to be taken, in order for the war to succeed. There should be no bias in the assessment and planning for the war.

            The international community needs to approach the war in Darfur extremely cautiously even from a historical perspective. Over the last millennium, there has been a lot of migration of Arabs into Sudan. This, combined with pre-colonial settlers makes the issue of ethnicity in Sudan a thorny one. Field work in Sudan has been complicated as a result of the language barrier and lack of infrastructure. As a result, remerkably little is known about this country or its people. The line that separates the South from the north further complicates ethnic relations in Sudan.

            More than fifty percent of Sudanese people speak Arabic, mostly in the north, and Arabic is the language used in school, for commerce, by the government and in the homes. This is not the same case in Southern Sudan where there are more than hundred languages spoken by the people. The educated elite in southern Sudan, however, prefer English as their official language. About seventy percent of Sudanese are Muslim, and the other twenty-five percent believe in indigenous gods while the remaining five percent is Christian. The political culture of Sudan is largely influenced by the presence of Arab immigrants and the fact that the citizens are predominantly Muslim. Some scholars have argued, however, that ethnicity in Sudan was not a cause of the war but a consequence of the war.

            The other factor that the Africa command has to consider is the politics of Sudan. Many political analysts have labeled Sudan a weak or failed state. It has often been viewed as a state that has weak structures that can barely sustain it. It has also been suggested that increasing the capacity of a state does not necessarily make it a stable regime. The international community would need to find ways of stabilizing the Sudanese government if they are to succeed in returning peace to the region of Darfur. Influences of tradition can still be traced in the Sudanese government, and politics are influenced by a few rich individuals.

            The role of the international community in resolving the conflict in Sudan cannot be over emphasized. So far reforms from within Sudan have proved impossible. Ethnic animosity is so deep that it has become almost impossible for people to resolve their own conflict without the intervention of the international community. This deep feeling of mistrust between the two warring factions can only be resolved by a third party with no vested interests in the matter, and this is where the international community comes in action. AMIS had tried to resolve this conflict before but was largely ineffective mostly due to insufficient finances and lack of equipment. Their personnel have often been targets of kidnapping, assault and death.

The other multinational operation that has been present in Darfur has been by UNMIS whose efforts have been relatively more successful. UNAMID, a joint operation between the United Nations and African Union, which had about twenty-six thousand troops, were authorized to protect the civilians, negotiate a peace agreement and return tranquility to the region. The Africa command may have to take a different approach in their attempt to restore peace. After examining the Political, Military, Economic, Social, Infrastructure and Information aspects of the region, they should remember that, at the end of the day, they must save human lives. They must speak out and condemn any acts of man slaughter, kidnapping or killings. Their humanitarian activities must also be taken just as seriously as attempts to stop the war.


Analysts, in general terms, agree that a lot more needs to be done concerning the war in Sudan. A stronger political will, more financing for the Africa Command, and more humanitarian goodwill is still needed to help victims of the war in Darfur. Dmitry Titov, an Assistant Secretary-General for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions noted that security and a sense of justice needed to be strengthened in Darfur if peace were to be restored in Darfur. He praised the effort by the government to find a local solution to the war in Darfur stating that the Sudanese themselves, with the help of the international community, were capable of putting an end to this conflict that had lasted for decades. He also applauded the joint operations between the United Nations and the African Union, UNAMID saying this operation would finally help in rebuilding the nation that has been at war for far too long.

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