African Union forces in the Darfur region need a stronger mandate and more resources to avoid losing credibility as a peacekeeping force, former U.N. force commander Romeo Dallaire said on Tuesday.
"They (the AU) need a stronger mandate with enough resources to implement it," said Dallaire, who spent more than 35 years in the Canadian army. "Their Achilles' heel is in the area of logistical and communications requirements."
The more than 6,000-strong AU mission was brought into Sudan to monitor a tentative truce in the vast desert region.
Aid workers and observers say the main problem with it is an unclear mandate -- politicians say the AU can protect civilians, but soldiers believe they can only monitor ceasefire violations and not intervene in conflict.
But after talks with AU commanders on his first visit to Darfur, Dallaire said the problem was the force did not have enough equipment or troops to implement the mandate.
"There is concern among the people around here as to the full effectiveness of the AU," he said. "(But) if you do not give them sufficient resources then you are setting them up."
Dallaire called on the international community to help.
APCS TO ARRIVE
He told Reuters the AU had clearance for 105 armored personnel carriers (APCs) contributed by his government. The vehicles are due to begin to arrive in Darfur on November 18.
The AU suffered its first casualties after more than a year of operations in Darfur last month. AU forces ran out of ammunition and were forced to retreat after engaging armed men who had attacked a convoy. Six AU personnel were killed.
That attack, which the AU initially blamed on rebels but a later report concluded was by Arab nomads, was symptomatic of the problems facing the AU in Darfur, said Dallaire, representing Canada, one of the top 10 donor nations to Sudan.
He said the force needed to have the ability to "impose their will" on both government and rebel forces who interfered in its work helping the huge humanitarian operation in Darfur, involving more than 11,000 aid workers.
Non-Arab rebels took up arms in early 2003 accusing the central government of monopolizing power and wealth. The United Nations says Khartoum then armed mostly Arab militia who forced more than 2 million people from their homes in a widespread campaign of rape, killing and looting.
Khartoum denies U.S. charges of genocide but the International Criminal Court is investigating war crimes in the area bordering Chad.
Dallaire said 18 months ago it appeared genocide was underway in Darfur, but on Tuesday he said he did not think that was the Sudanese government's intention.
"All the indications at that time looked as though we were moving toward a genocide," he said. "The jury is still out ... but I don't think that intention was clear."
Dallaire said the displacement of the civilian population using "horror" tactics of rape, destruction and mutilation had been concluded without significant intervention from the international community, so it was not clear the government had intended a genocide of the non-Arabs in Darfur.