The African Union troops will exchange their berets for the familiar blue of the U.N. peacekeeping forces in a handover ceremony to take place on Monday 31 December. The ceremony marks the start of the official deployment of UNAMID, a joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force in Sudan.
What this means is that over the next two months, peacekeepers from Egypt, Ethiopia, and Pakistan will be deployed in the area. However, the force still falls well short of the 26,000 troops originally planned for the mission and there is little hope that the new force will bring immediate results.
Eventually, the total force – 20,000 soldiers and 6,000 police and civilian personnel – will replace some 7,000 AU peacekeepers.
So far, the AU force deployed until now has been helpless to end the violence in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur province due to lack of funding, equipment, and staff.
The United Nations Security Council authorized this tougher, joint, deployment in July. However, deployment of the larger force faces delays, partly following Khartoum’s reluctance to allow foreign peacekeepers into the country.
Once deployed, UNAMID will be the largest peacekeeping mission in the world.
Adding to the problem is that contributing countries and Western governments are not providing enough equipment for the mission. Additional helicopters are especially needed to patrol the huge expanses of Darfur.
The aim of UNAMID is to end the conflict in Sudan, which has raged since early 2003. Over 200,000 people have been killed and 2.2 million displaced in what some governments refer to as genocide.
The conflict erupted when local rebel groups in Darfur rebelled against the central government in Khartoum to protest decades of discrimination. The government has been accused of unleashing vicious armed groups known as the Janjaweed to suppress the rebels.