The Darfur Consortium

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Darfur in the News

U.S. and European Media

December 28, 2022

Associated Press: Child Malnutrition Rising in Darfur, U.N. Says. Malnutrition has increased among children in Darfur over the past year despite a massive humanitarian aid effort in the war-torn Sudanese region, according to a U.N. report obtained Thursday. More than four years since the conflict began, escalating violence against local people and humanitarian workers alike has made it difficult to get food and other aid to the 4.2 million people affected, U.N. officials said. The study, obtained by the Associated Press, found that 16.1 percent of children affected by the conflict suffer from acute malnutrition, compared with 12.9 percent a year earlier. It was the first time the rate has been above the World Health Organization's 15 percent "emergency threshold" for malnutrition since 2004, a year after the conflict in Darfur began, when it ran at 21.8 percent. "We are concerned because insecurity has compromised our ability to reach people in need," said Stephanie Bunker of the United Nations' humanitarian affairs operation.

Agence France Presse: Sudanese military denies losing plane to Darfur rebels. The Sudanese military on Friday denied that rebels in the strife-torn Darfur region had shot down a government aircraft. "This is just false information," armed forces spokesman General Othman al-Aghbach told the Sudanese Media Centre news agency which is close to Sudanese intelligence services. He added that the rebels "are seeking political gain by putting out sensational information," referring to the Justice and Equality Movement which on Thursday claimed it had downed a Sudanese army Antonov 24 in south Darfur. JEM leader Khalil Ibrahim had told AFP by satellite phone that rebels hit the plane as it flew over Geneina, the main city of west Darfur which rebels claim to have surrounded, but that it went down near south Darfur's main town of Nyala. A military source quoted by the Al-Sudani daily said that the rebels were "incapable of imposing an aerial exclusion zone above Darfur" after Ibrahim declared "Darfur a no-fly zone." The JEM leader said this applied to "government aviation including commercial flights and we ask that organisations like the United Nations inform us in advance of their flight plans so that they are not targeted."

Reuters: Six Convicted French Aid Workers Fly Home From Chad. Six French aid workers sentenced to hard labor in Chad for trying to kidnap 103 children flew out of the African nation on Friday bound for France where they are due to serve their sentences in jail. France invoked a 1976 judicial cooperation treaty with its former colony to obtain the quick transfer home of the six, who were sentenced by a Chadian criminal court on Wednesday to eight years' hard labor for abduction. The four men and two women from French humanitarian group Zoe's Ark, who looked tired after two months in jail in the landlocked country, flew out of N'Djamena airport aboard a Boeing airliner of the Chadian carrier Toumai Air Tchad. They were escorted by French officials. Their departure from Chad followed a highly publicized legal case and diplomatic imbroglio which had embarrassed France, a key backer of Chadian President Idriss Deby. French troops and planes stationed in Chad have given logistical and intelligence support to Deby's army fighting rebels in the east. France is also the main contributor of troops to a European Union peace force preparing to deploy in eastern Chad to protect thousands of Sudanese refugees and displaced Chadian civilians.

The following op-ed by Mark Leon Goldberg of the United Nations Foundation appeared in Thursday's Los Angeles Times.

Hunting for helicopters

"Is there a world helicopter shortage nobody told us about?" begins a Dec. 13 editorial excoriating United Nations member states for refusing to lease helicopters for a peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

In fact, the answer to that question is yes.

On Nov. 27, Reuters reported that shortages of helicopters are hobbling U.N. missions all over the world. "A shortage of top-end machines needed for tropical conditions plus a reluctance of countries to bear the costs of deploying them," the article noted, "are being exacerbated by a procurement logjam that means a major renewal of Western fleets is years off." That procurement gap, Reuters stated, will likely not be closed for another two years, when a new generation of helicopters suitable for the hot and dusty conditions of a place like Darfur is made available.

Still, a lack of global helicopter capacity should not excuse U.N. member states — particularly those which have complained loudest about Darfur — from their duty. How and where countries decide to deploy the relatively few helicopters available is ultimately a matter of setting priorities. And as the editorial rightly protests, Darfur is still low on the totem pole.

The strategic importance of helicopters in Darfur can hardly be exaggerated. Darfur is a vast area, and its few roads are often subject to seasonal flooding. Helicopters are critical for transporting troops and equipment across an area the size of France.

Transportation is not the only purpose for which the helicopters will be used. The extent to which the Darfur mission will be able to protect civilians will depend on the availability of so-called force-multipliers. Assault helicopters can be decisive in deterring attacks on civilians, particularly when the attackers are using suped-up Toyotas and horses. It is widely acknowledged that a key turning point for U.N. peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of Congo was the deployment of Indian air force attack helicopters, which were then used to target militias. Such "peace enforcement," the euphemistic term for aggressively going after groups determined to spoil a peace, will be critical to the success of the Darfur mission.

U.N. officials have tried to stress the importance of helicopters, but so far their pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Earlier this month, in a message to a meeting of Nobel Peace laureates in Rome, the normally soft-spoken Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon came close to calling out the stingy member states by name. "In the past weeks and months, I have contacted, personally, every possible contributor of helicopters — in the Americas, in Europe, in Asia," he said. "And yet, not one helicopter has been made available."

Speaking to reporters in mid-November, U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Marie Guehenno bluntly warned that the mission would fail should 24 helicopters — including six attack helicopters — not be made available. In a not-so-subtle jab at the missing political will of member states, Guehenno said, "I think it tells a sad story on the commitment for Darfur."
He's right. What's really sad is that this sort of dynamic has been repeated over and over since the genocide erupted in 2004. The crunch for helicopters is simply the latest manifestation of member states' real disinterest in mustering the political will to match rhetoric with action on Darfur.


The Darfur Daily News is a service of the Save Darfur Coalition.  To subscribe to the Daily News, please email [email protected]. For media inquiries, please contact Ashley Roberts at (202) 478-6181, or [email protected].

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