NAIROBI: The dust is still settling after the weekend attack on the African Union base in Haskanita. Details are now starting to emerge from the likes of AP’s Alfred de Montesquiou about the sequence of events that led to the deaths of at least 10 members of the AU force – seven Nigerian soldiers, as well as a police officer from Senegal,and two military observers from Botswana and Mali. The most likely culprits are rebels linked to the Sudan Liberation Army Unity faction or the Justice and Equality Movement. Fighters from those two outfits have been in action in that part of northern Darfur for the past few weeks. But the question is: what were their motives?
1) The rebels in the past have used AU forces as suppliers of vehicles, guns and ammunition. This attack seems to be no exception. My SLA friends in the north tell me that the Janjaweed are stocking up so perhaps it’s no surprise that the rebels are doing likewise.
2) With peace talks due to start in Tripoli this month numerous rebel groupings are vying for a seat at the table. There are several reports suggesting that renegades from SLA-Unity and JEM were responsible for the attack, led by commanders keen to establish their credentials.
3) Many Darfuris are desperate for the new hybrid force to include well-drilled American and European troops, while Khartoum continues to insist that the bulk are drawn from Africa. Could this be an attempt to show that a predominantly African force is simply not up to the job?