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The CFSP in Action - The EU and & Darfur


The international community’s failure to stop the violence in Darfur has been a cause of worldwide protest. Although the atrocities in Darfur are said by many to amount to "genocide", a UN expert committee rejected the use of that term although it confirmed that terrible crimes, including war crimes, had been committed there. In July 2008 the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court announced that he wished to bring charges against President Omar al-Bashir for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Lack of international agreement on how to stop the violence in Darfur reflects in part the reluctance of Russia and China to support tough measures – such as economic sanctions - in the UN against Sudan (China is a major purchaser of Sudanese oil). Chinese fears that the image of the 2008 Beijing Olympics would be tainted by her association with Sudan led to China taking a more constructive approach in the UN in 2007-08.

Sudan is Africa’s largest country, one divided by religion (the largely Muslim north and the Christian south) and by race (Arabs and Africans). Oil was discovered in Sudan in the 1970s but most of its population is very poor and that poverty has not been helped by nearly twenty-five years of conflict in various parts of the country.

Although the conflict between the north and the south of the country, which had broken out in 1983, was brought to an end in 2005 through the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the absence of good faith and the policies of the ruling National Congress Party have meant that lasting peace and stability have not been achieved.

In 2003 Arab militia (the Janjaweed), supported by Sudanese Government forces, began attacks on African tribes people in the Darfur (Western) area of the country. The Sudanese Government says that it is responding to two rebel movements (the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army) who want more autonomy for Darfur. Roughly 200,000 Darfuris have died as a result of this ethnic cleansing and as many as two million have been displaced. The refugee problem (and to some extent the violence) has spilled over into Sudan’s neighbours, Chad and the Central African Republic.

The UN Security Council has condemned the violence in Darfur and imposed sanctions against four Sudanese men, including two rebel leaders a former air force chief and the leader of a pro-government militia, for war crimes. It has also referred the cases of some Sudanese leaders to the International Criminal Court. The African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) deployed troops in Darfur between 2004 and 2007 but it lacked the mandate or the capacity to deal effectively with the problem. The Sudanese Government strongly resisted international pressure to admit a UN-backed peacekeeping force.

The EU strongly supports the UN-led efforts to bring peace to Sudan, including Darfur, has provided practical help to the African Union and is now supporting the joint African Union/UN force with a complementary EU mission in two of Sudan’s neighbours, Chad and the Central African Republic. The UNAMID force was agreed to by the Security Council in July 2007 and just over 9,000 personnel had deployed by the end of January 2008. Three EU Member States – Britain, France and Sweden – are contributing military personnel and several others civilian police officers. But the main EU effort is in the supporting force in Chad and the Central African Republic.

The situation in Darfur is complex and far from static. This briefing reflects the situation in November 2008.

EU Support for AMIS

From its inception the EU provided finance and practical support to the AMIS force. EU grants of €242 million was given to help pay the wages of the soldiers and other costs and EU countries also provided airlift capability to enable the force to be deployed and redeployed (NATO was also involved in this work). Many EU Member States provided bilateral aid to AMIS as well; this amounted to a further €120 million between 2004 and 2007.

The EU had a mission which provided a small number of police officers, military experts and military observers to assist AMIS in its duties until the end of December 2007 when UNMID tookover from AMIS. The EU Special Representative to the Sudan, currently Torben Brylle, co-ordinates EU aid and the work of EUFOR Chad/CAR (see below).

Political Action

The situation in Darfur cannot be resolved by military means alone; political dialogue is essential to achieving peace and stability. The African Union – supported by the EU and the UN - has sought a negotiated settlement between the parties to the conflict in Darfur and the Darfur Peace Agreement, signed in May 2006, was meant to achieve that goal. But not all parties to the conflict were prepared to sign the agreement (although some agreed to support it later) and the violence worsened as the agreement itself became a cause of further disputes.

The UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS), created following the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, was extended to Darfur in August 2006 on the basis that it would assist in the implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement in addition to its existing task of supporting the CPA. UNMIS would be strengthened by the deployment of over 17,000 military personnel and a further 3,000 civilian policemen. The mandate of UNMIS has been extended several times but the Sudanese Government has resisted pressure to accept a UN peacekeeping force in Darfur.

On 31 July 2007 the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1769 which provided for the replacement of the current AMIS force in Darfur with a hybrid African Union/UN force of 24,000 personnel (UNAMID) by the end of 2007. This was part of a co-ordinated attempt to persuade the various parties to the conflict to engage in political dialogue.

The African Union and the UN brought together several of the parties to the Darfur conflict who had not signed the DPA at Arusha in Tanzania in August 2007. This development was widely welcomed, including by the EU, but once again some the parties to the conflict in Darfur were absent.

The EU & Sudan’s Neighbours

Several hundred thousand refugees from Darfur are now living in camps in eastern Chad, where the violence has also spilled over. Problems have also developed in the Central African Republic. In response to these difficulties, the United Nations accepted an offer from the EU to deploy a protection force for one year to Chad and the Central African Republic to enable the UN to provide humanitarian aid and train police forces in the affected areas of these two countries. The UN Security Council agreed in September 2008 that when the EUFOR Chad/CAR mission comes to an end in March 2009, it should be replaced by a UN military force.

The EU Force in Chad and Central African Republic

The 3,700 strong EU military force in eastern Chad and the north-east of the Central African Republic has now been deployed and is operational. Led by an Irish General in overall command with a French brigadier as the force commander on the ground, the purpose of the troops is to provide protection to civilians and UN personnel in the refugee areas of Chad and the Central African Republic. The force is there because the violence in Darfur has spilt over into its neighbours, with attacks on refugee camps.

This is a difficult mission, not least because some of the groups in Chad rebelling against the government there have threatened to attack the EU force. This hostility partly derives from the fact that the bulk of its soldiers are French (the former colonial power in Chad), which has troops separately stationed in Chad to support the Chadian Government.

Although the relationship between the EU and Russia has been tense since the Russia incursion into Georgia in August 2008, they did reach agreement at the beginning of November 2008 on the deployment by Russia of four helicopters and 120 troops to support the EU force in Chad and the CAR.


The situation in Darfur is complex and not easy to resolve. Deployment of the AU/UN force should achieve a better security situation but a lasting peace requires all parties to participate in and implement an agreed political programme of change. The EU has played a useful role supporting international efforts to tackle the problems of Sudan and its neighbours and has provided practical help. The European Defence & Security Policy mission to Chad and the Central African Republic is a further demonstration of the EU’s valuable capacity to mobilise modest military forces to operate outside the NATO area for peacekeeping and humanitarian support purposes.

November 2008

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