The UN peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region has suffered its worst ever losses. Seven peacekeepers have been killed and 17 others injured in an ambush near their base.
It is very sad that we are seeing the peacekeepers been attacked ... [but] how much have they done since they were deployed in Darfur? And how many people have they protected since? ... Their position is not quite neutral, they are so close to the government … this is why they have been targeted and they are now vulnerable.
The joint African Union-UN force, UNAMID, has been operating in Darfur since July 2007. The mission is made up of around 20,000 troops and international police.
Its mission is to protect civilians, provide security for humanitarian aid and promote human rights.
Since the mission started, 156 personnel have been killed, including these latest casualties from Tanzania. Questions are now being raised about how safe the peacekeepers are.
“The government’s efforts to bring law and order and control and bring justice and accountability have failed. Under those circumstances, the UN must seriously consider whether there is a role for its peacekeeping forces in Darfur. In the last few years, the UN peacekeeping force has provided an alibi for the government in Khartoum to continue its ethnic cleansing tactics and give a fig leaf for their efforts,” Mukesh Kapila, the former head of the United Nations in Sudan, told Al Jazeera.
So has the UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur failed? What is the role of the Sudanese government? And do those charged with protecting others have a strong enough mandate to protect themselves?
To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Veronica Pedrosa, are guests: Christopher Cycmanick, the acting spokesman for UNAMID; Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, a diplomat and former UN special representative for West Africa; Ishag Mekki, the chairman of the Darfur Victims Organisation of Relief and Rehabilitation; and Salah Eddin Elzein, the director of the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies and a Sudanese scholar from Darfur.
"Very often because basically UN peacekeepers would like to help, they are taken as a target ... which is unacceptable, and Ban Ki-moon was absolutely right in condemning the aggression, which is unfortunately not the first one, because we have already lost 150 peacekeepers in Sudan over the last six, seven years."
-Ahmedou Ould-Abdullah, a diplomat and former UN special representative for West Africa