Right now, I’m on my way to Darfur (via Dubai and Khartoum) to look at some of the camps the UN peacekeepers will use when they are sent to the region. This is one of the many visits I have made to Sudan – both to Darfur and the South – since I became the Senior Representative on Sudan at the State Department more than a year ago. And each time I come to Darfur, I visit the displacement camps where nearly two and a half million people live. I am reminded once again of what they have suffered and the importance of what we all want – a peaceful solution so that these people can go home. The UN calls Darfur the largest humanitarian disaster in the world. Talking to these people – and seeing their living conditions – makes you realize how important it is that we get more peacekeepers on the ground as soon as possible, and we get a peace agreement all will live by.
Last week at the United Nations, there was a special Ministerial meeting on Darfur before the General Assembly. One of the things leaders focused on was the need to deploy the peacekeepers – the UNAMID force – quickly. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Secretary John Negroponte, Special Envoy Andrew Natsios and Assistant Secretary Jendayi Frazer all stressed the need for rapid deployment.
UN Resolution 1769, which established the peacekeeping force in July, calls for 26,000 troops and police to be in Darfur when UNAMID is at full force.
Right now, there are about 7,000 African Union troops in Darfur. They have done a good job, but they have been overwhelmed by the task. These African troops will become part of the UNAMID force.
What most Americans probably don’t know is that the United States built and maintained the base camps for the African Union troops. Altogether we have spent about $400 million building and operating 34 base camps. And we are spending more money to expand seven of those camps for to hold approximately 1500 new troops.
So that’s why I am going to Darfur: to make sure the camp expansion is taking place on time – so more troops can get on the ground as quickly as possible.
But American assistance to the people of Darfur and Sudan will not stop just because the UN deploys. In fact, the U.S. will contribute about one-quarter of the funds needed for the peacekeeping mission. And that’s in addition to the $4 billion we have already provided to the people of Sudan since 2005.