Cape Town — An international coalition of activists on Thursday set out to name and shame governments around the world for their failure to provide even one of the additional helicopters needed for peacekeeping in Sudan's troubled Darfur region.
Last November, the commander of the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur (UNAMID), General Martin Agwai of Nigeria, told AllAfrica in an interview in Cape Town that the lack of roads in Darfur, especially during the rainy season, made helicopters essential for his peacekeeping mission.
"The minimum, not the ideal but the minimum," he said, was "18 utility helicopters, and about 12 to 18 combat helicopters that can go to do reconnaissance and other things. As of today, there is no country in the world that has volunteered to give us that capability – zero."
Today, nine months later, on the first anniversary of the UN Security Council resolution authorizing the deployment of the force, the number of helicopters offered by the international community in response to UN appeals remains the same – zero.
To mark the anniversary, a group of nearly 40 organizations from countries ranging from the United States to Australia and Japan has released a report, drawn up by military aviation expert Thomas Withington, which assesses, country by country, the availability of the type of helicopters needed for the Darfur peacekeeping mission.
The report names six countries which it believes are most able to provide the aircraft needed. They are: India, Ukraine, the Czech Republic, Italy, Romania and Spain. Between them, they could provide an estimated 70 helicopters, the report says.
Moreover, it estimates that countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have enough surplus helicopters to provide peacekeepers with a total of 104 aircraft. They include: Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and the United States. Pakistan is also named as a potential contributor.
Among the NATO countries, the report suggests that while Greece, Latvia and Slovenia might be able to supply only one helicopter each, Italy might be able to supply 13, the Ukraine 14 and the United States 30. India could supply 20.
It identifies the aircraft needed as "medium-lift tactical helicopters" which will:
- Provide transport for an infantry company of up to 250;
- Carry out reconnaissance and observation missions;
- Undertake search and rescue missions;
- Help establish forward air refuelling points to refuel aircraft on the ground during missions; and
- Re-supply UNAMID units in the field.
"Without helicopters," the report says, "the force's capability to respond quickly to events and fulfil its mandate to protect civilians will be severely compromised."