The commander of the hybrid AU-UN Mission in Darfur (Unamid), Gen. Martin Luther Agway, has said that continued divisions among rebel factions is one of the main challenges currently impeding the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement to end Darfur crisis.
He was speaking to journalists at Rwanda’s Ministry of Defence yesterday shortly after paying a courtesy call on Defence Minister, Gen. Marcel Gatsinzi and Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) Chief of General Staff, Gen. James Kabarebe.
“The situation (in Darfur) is not too bright…There is a big challenge of parties breaking into small, small groups making it difficult for a comprehensive agreement to be reached,” the Nigerian general said of the situation in the troubled western Darfur region.
Divisions among Darfur’s rebel factions have been seen as one of the factors delaying an effective peace deal with Khartoum since the on-and-off talks aimed at ending the violence– which broke out in 2003– got underway about two years ago.
Asked whether what was happening in Darfur was genocide, the Unamid force commander, was hesitant to use the same term which the US– one of the main financiers of Darfur peacekeeping mission– uses to define the Darfur violence.
“I am not a politician. My English is not very good; I really can not define what genocide is. There are problems in Darfur… Some people have termed it genocide, I don’t term it genocide.”
Agway said the purpose of his visit to Rwanda was to say “big thank you” to the Government of Rwanda, RDF, and the people of Rwanda in general, for their contribution to the Darfur peacekeeping mission.
He described the RDF’s services to Darfur from the time the force first deployed in August 2004 as “sacrificial, outstanding and excellent.”
Referring to the size of the Rwanda’s contingent in Darfur, Gen. Agway, who is deputized by Rwanda’s Maj. Gen. Karenzi Karake, said it was remarkable for a nation to raise as many as four battalions for a single peacekeeping mission.
Rwanda has over 3,500 peacekeepers in Darfur as part of the roughly 10,000-strong joint AU-UN force, a figure still far from the required 26,000 peacekeepers.
But Agway said he was confident many nations would soon come on board and raise the targeted number of peacekeepers.
“On December 31 (2007), there was transfer of the mission (from AU force to a joint AU-UN force), but that was just the beginning of the process. It wasn’t an event but a process. There are a lot of expectations.”
Noting that Darfur lies 2,000 kilometres away from the nearest port, Agway pointed out that it might take long for the necessary peacekeeping logistics to arrive in the region which is 87% as the size of Kenya.
On his part, Gen. Kabarebe said peacekeeping responsibilities should not be left to “two or three nations” but rather should be viewed as a “shared burden” between all nations.
“Responsibility to bring about and maintain peace should be for many willing countries, it should not be left to two or three nations. There are so many challenges to it, and therefore, I would call for shared burden and responsibility,” Gen. Kabarebe said during a joint press briefing with Gen. Agway.
He said he was “looking forward to the increment in numbers of Darfur peacekeepers.
While on a visit to Rwanda last month, US President George W. Bush earmarked $100 million from his foreign aid budget to assist African countries willing to send peacekeeping troops to Darfur.
He announced that Rwanda would receive $12 million of the total package to train additional peacekeepers.
Meanwhile, as part of his itinerary in his weeklong visit to Rwanda, Gen. Agway is set to attend a two-day conference on conflict management organized by the National University of Rwanda which gets underway today at Hotel Novotel Umubano.
Officials said he will also attend a military workshop at Rwanda Military Academy Nyakinama on lessons learned from Darfur in which Rwandan officers who previously served in Darfur will share their experience.
The workshop, the first of its kind and which has attracted among others participants from 17 African countries and experts from US Africa Command (Africom), will be opened today by Chief of General Staff (Land Forces) Charles Kayonga.