In 2003, a violent conflict in Darfur, Sudan, broke out between rebel groups and government troops and government-supported Arab militias. While few would dispute that many thousands of Darfur civilians have died, less consensus exists about the total number of deaths attributable to the crisis.
Estimates by the US Department of State and other parties report death tolls up to about 400,000 for varying populations and periods of time between February 2003 and August 2005.
The United States has been the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Darfur, obligating nearly $1 billion from October 2003 through September 2006, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Although more than 68 percent of this assistance consisted of food aid, US 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 US and other officials attribute in part to humanitarian assistance efforts. However, the US Agency for International Development and the entities providing US 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, US-funded programs.
The African Mission in Sudan, or 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 US government, via private contractors, provided about $280 million from June 2004 through September 2006 to build and maintain 32 camps for AMIS forces in Darfur, according to the Department of State. Numerous challenges have been identified by African Union or US 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.
Sources: US Department of State, United Nations, Government Accountability Office, US Congress
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.