Darfur Crisis:

Progress in Aid and Peace Monitoring Threatened by Ongoing Violence and Operational Challenges

GAO-07-9: Published: Nov 9, 2006. Publicly Released: Dec 11, 2006.

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David B. Gootnick
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In 2003, violent conflict in Darfur, Sudan broke out between rebel groups, government troops, and government-supported Arab militias, known as the Janjaweed. The conflict has displaced about 2 million Darfurians and has so affected over 1.9 million others that they require assistance. Since October 2003, the U.S. government has provided humanitarian assistance in Darfur and supported African Union Mission in Sudan's (AMIS) efforts to fulfill a peace support mandate. This report reviews (1) U.S. humanitarian assistance provided to Darfur and the challenges that have been encountered and (2) African Union efforts to fulfill its mandate and challenges that have affected these efforts.

The United States has been the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Darfur, obligating nearly $1 billion from October 2003 through September 2006. Although more than 68 percent of this assistance consisted of food aid, U.S. assistance has also supported other needs, such as water and sanitation, shelter, and health care. Since 2003, humanitarian organizations have made significant progress in increasing the number of people in Darfur receiving aid. In addition, malnutrition and mortality rates in Darfur dropped, a trend that U.S. and other officials attribute in part to humanitarian assistance efforts. However, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the entities providing U.S. humanitarian assistance have encountered several challenges that have hampered delivery of, or accountability for, humanitarian services in Darfur. These challenges include continued insecurity in Darfur; Sudanese government restrictions on access to communities in need; the timing of funding; and an incapacity to ensure monitoring of, and reporting on, U.S.-funded programs. AMIS has taken several positive actions in Darfur to pursue its mandate, although some actions have been incomplete or inconsistent. For example, to monitor compliance with a 2004 cease-fire agreement--one mandate component--AMIS investigated alleged cease-fire violations and identified numerous violations; however, the resulting reports were not consistently reviewed at higher levels or made fully publicly available to identify those violating the agreement. The U.S. government, via private contractors, provided about $280 million from June 2004 through September 2006 tobuild and maintain 32 camps for AMIS forces in Darfur, according to the Department of State. Numerous challenges have been identified by African Union or U.S. officials, among others, as negatively affecting AMIS's efforts in Darfur. These challenges include inadequacies in AMIS's organization, management, and capacity, such as inconsistent interpretation of the AMIS mandate; its relatively small forces; limited or poorly allocated resources; and a lack of intelligence regarding, and cooperation from, the parties to the conflict. A transition from AMIS to a UN peacekeeping operation is being considered, although the Sudanese government has rejected such a transition. A possible NATO-assisted review of AMIS operations has not been conducted. Meanwhile, insecurity and violence continue in Darfur.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Since our report, responsibility for peace monitoring in the Darfur was subsequently transferred to the United Nations. In the meantime, NATO has continued to provide support to African Union peace monitoring operation, basing training in part on lessons learned from the Darfur effort.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should encourage the Chairperson of the African Union Commission to ensure that an appropriate body, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, provide assistance for an assessment of AMIS operations to identify the key challenges AMIS has faced and the reasons for those challenges. Such a "lessons learned" assessment would provide information necessary to allow (1) the African Union to strengthen its future peace support planning and operations and (2) the donor community to support future African Union peace support efforts in a manner that could minimize difficulties such as those encountered by AMIS.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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