Sudan demands reperations from France

I find odd but I suppose it is in keeping with their perspective that the Sudanese government are considering demanding reparations from France for the ‘incursion’ into Sudan by French peacekeepers attached to EUFOR in Chad during which a French soldier was killed by the Sudanese military. Short version – French get lost driving in desert, wander into Sudan, get shot. Longer below the fold

Simplifying greatly, EUFOR, which so far is mostly French and Irish troops under an Irish commander, Lieutenant-General Pat Nash, is basically the EU military contribution to MINURCAT, which is the UN civilian Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad, all flowing from Resolution 1778 from 25th September 2007. It is there to protect the flow of humanitarian assistance to refugees who’ve from from Darfur into Chad. In practical terms it is necessary because Sudan has made so much hard work out of deploying UNAMID, the Hybrid AU-UN mission to Darfur. As long as Sudan fusses about which troops it will accept, what routes they can use, what communications they are allowed to use and so on, someone needs to try and start making some peace – hence MINURCAT and EUFOR which are deployed in Chad whose President, Idriss Deby, will do what France tells him because without French support he would be run out of N’Djamena by the opposition. EUFOR is, in theory, independent of another French force in Chad which effectively keeps Deby in power, although it is possible that the Chadian rebels may not make that distinction. (Chad is, of course, a former French Colony – thousands of Chadians fought with the Free French in WWII, and there is large Chadian community in France.)

So anyway a couple of French officers, attached to EUFOR, got separated from the rest of their recon patrol near Tissi, crossed the border into Sudan in a landrover, pulled up at a Sudanese checkpoint, identified themselves, and were shot at by the Sudanese who killed one of the French soldiers. The Sudanese version is that there was an exchange of fire, in which a Sudanese civilian and a Sudanese soldier were shot. There is, not surprisingly, a lack of independent witnesses, and it is almost impossible to verify even the most basic facts like where exactly the border is in that part of the world. It is somewhat odd that even though the incident happened on the 3rd of March, it wasn’t until the 5th that the Sudanese were able to say that they had found a body which appeared to be that of the missing French soldier. The Sudanese are, apparently, calculating how much compensation they require for what is, technically, a breach of their sovereignty, even if it was an accident.

I imagine the French won’t pay compensation – it is a UN sanctioned mission (otherwise Irish troops wouldn’t be there) and the French officers were driving a marked vehicle and wearing EUFOR insignia. Is has some parallels with the position which the Irish in UNIFIL found themselves in after the “Battle of At Tiri” when compensation was sought for the shooting of a member of the SLA while the Irish were resisting an attempt by the SLA to force their way into At Tiri to establish a checkpoint. The consequences for the Irish at that time were serious – the At Tiri shooting led to the murders of Irish peacekeepers in the ‘Enclave Killings’ a week later. However, for a UN mandated force to give in to demands for compensation for doing its job in good faith is simply not acceptable, and hopefully the French will uphold that, and if they have sense, the Sudanese government won’t press the issue.

I found the reparations story in the Sudan Times, where I went following a link from my Google Alert for ‘peacekeeping’ to a story about a conference the Rwandans are hosting to gather ‘lessons learned’ by the AU from the failed African Union Mission in Sudan. Since the UN mission in Rwanda at the time of the genocide there was one of the biggest failures of peacekeeping in the 1990’s, it is singularly odd that Rwanda should now be a significant player in developing AU peacekeeping capabilities, but I guess it really is a funny old world.

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