The conflict in Sudans Darfur region is far from over. Since it began in February 2003, two million people have been expelled from their homes by the Sudanese governments campaign of crimes against humanity and thnic cleansing conducted in the name of counterinsurgency, and are trapped in refugee camps in neighboring Chad or in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps inside Darfur. Small-scale attacks by government forces and government-backed militias continue against civilians, while the actions of rebel groups and opportunistic bandits further subject Darfurs civilian population to abuse and insecurity. Ethnic cleansing threatens to become consolidated, as civilians remain confined in camps exposed to violence and human rights abuse that prevent them from returning to their homes and claiming back their land.
This report examines the evolving role in the Darfur conflict of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) from its inception as a ceasefire monitoring body in June 2004 to its current incarnation, AMIS II-Enhanced (AMIS II-E). The report identifies ways AMIS II-E can be immediately strengthened to improve protection for civilians. It also looks at factors that must be taken into account in any further transformation of AMIS II-E, one possible direction being incorporation into a United Nations mission (an option that is reportedly to be considered at the January 2006 African Union summit meeting). The report is based on an expert technical military assessment of the African Union Mission in Sudan as well as on Human Rights Watchs extensive research and reporting on the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Darfur.1
At present, the only available option for civilian protection in Darfur is aggressive patrolling by AMIS troops properly equipped with armored personnel carriers (APCs), attack helicopters and other necessary equipment with clearly defined and understood rules of engagement among all troops that permit them to use deadly force to protect civilians. AMISs mandate and mission tasks already provide for the protection of civilians under imminent threat, but AMIS forces need to apply their rules of engagement more proactively. The rules of engagement must be clarified or modified so that deadly force is explicitly permitted to protect civilians, including humanitarian operations under imminent threat. This change also requires that the decision to use deadly force be delegated from the force commander to the sector commanders in the field where decisions to escalate are most imperative and must be made on a timely basis. As well, AMIS should deploy in each sector, fully equipped (with artillery) quick reaction forces to respond immediately to civilians and humanitarian operations under imminent threat with rules of engagement that provide for the use of deadly force. To further strengthen civilian protection, AMIS civilian police (CivPol) tasks should be augmented and reformulated to provide CivPols with the power to arrest persons engaged in criminal activity.
These are steps that would bolster the existing AMIS II-E. Debate is ongoing as to whether AMIS could and should be further transformed including through integration into a non-A.U. institution. The possibility of placing the AMIS operation under U.N. authority is one option under serious consideration, primarily for financial reasons, and at this writing it is reported to be on the agenda of African Union summit meeting in Khartoum, Sudan, on January 23-24, 2006. Over and above the objective of fiscal stability, reasons of logistical enhancement and the well-established and tested command and control structure needed for such a large mission may well recommend that AMIS be lue-hatted or folded into the U.N. peace support mission running parallel to AMIS in the rest of Sudan. This merger would be desirable only so long as it would not reduce the mandate, mission tasks, rules of engagement or equipment AMIS has or plans to acquire. As African Union leaders and A.U. and U.N. planners consider this option, they will need to ensure that any attempt to integrate or acquire AMIS operations does not diminish in any way the response capability of the mission in protecting civilians. Even if a decision were made to lue hat AMIS, it is clear that any transfer would take many months. In the short term, AMIS can take immediate measures to improve civilian protection and resources and political pressure must be applied to ensure that it has the capacity, will and support to protect civilians in Darfur.
This report was researched and written by staff and consultants in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. Primary research sources were the reports of the AMIS military planners, and interviews with African Union, United Nations, European Union, NATO and Canadian government personnel and military plannersand diplomats.