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Analyst Says Attack on AU in Darfur Benefits Gun Runners, Cattle Thieves, Among Others

An analyst says the attack on AU troops in Darfur over the weekend may have been an attempt to scuttle peace efforts and help those benefiting from the “chaos” in the region.

Dr. Timothy Othieno is a senior researcher at the Institute for Global Dialogue in Midrand, South Africa. He spoke with VOA English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the attack.

“This attack, as mentioned, is unprecedented in the sense that it involved quite a number of militias. I mean we’re talking about 30 motor vehicles, 30 trucks that were involved in this raid and God knows how many people were involved. The most important point that needs to be made is a direct attack on an AU base. Remember, an attack of this magnitude obviously must have entailed serious planning on the part of the militias. And we know the (AU) force will be beefed up in the next couple of months. But as things stand now it’s still a depleted force. And such an attack actually creates a worrying situation for the next AU/UN hybrid force,” he says.

But why attack AU forces now in such strength? Othieno says, “It’s almost two- or three-fold. This attack could have been taken to send out a number of messages. One, that fact that – look, the peace agreement that has been signed in Arusha or the one that was signed Abuja last year – those do not hold water and there still needs to be final negotiations…. The other message that is being sent out (is) the incoming joint UN/AU troops…need to take a very cautious attitude toward resolving the crisis there because obviously they’ll be seen as hostile elements on the ground. The third element that I see (is) what is the role of Khartoum in this? How could a convoy of over 30 vehicles go unnoticed with government forces?”

Could the attack be aimed at discouraging African countries from taking part in peacekeeping efforts in Darfur? “They’re trying to discourage any sort of intervention…. If the hybrid force is successful in Darfur, there are a number of players who will be on the losing side. In other words will not be benefiting…the chaos that exists in Darfur – there are people who are reaping benefits,” he says.

This includes weapons supplies, cattle thieves or people who do not want a stable government in the region.