I returned from Darfur last week where I went to look at the progress U.S. contractors are making on the camps that will house U.N. peacekeepers when they arrive in Sudan. I spent much of my time around El Fasher in camps including Zam Zam and UmKadada. El Fasher is the capital of North Darfur.
From what I saw, there’s a lot that’s been done: Crews are working around the clock in three shifts to install the big white tents and containers where the UN troops will live and work. They’ve built mess halls, septic tanks, perimeter walls and vehicle repair shops. It’s quite a sight to see these camps literally sprouting up in the dry dusty red clay of Darfur.
But around the time of my visit, there were some ominous developments in Darfur: Ten AU peacekeepers were killed outside the town of Haskanita, and there was fighting between the rebels and the Government of Sudan troops and their allies. The attacks and the escalation of violence drove home the point that UN peacekeepers must be sent to Darfur as quickly as possible. We need to get more troops on the ground to bring some security to the region. The people of Darfur are frightened; the humanitarian workers are frightened and some of them are leaving.
The UN-sponsored peace talks are scheduled to begin in Libya on October 27. But in the meantime, we must all insist that the Government of Sudan, the rebels and everyone else involved in Sudan stop fighting.