Saturday, August 18, 2007

Darfur force tainted by war crimes allegations

from the Guardian Unlimited:
(by Julian Borger, diplomatic editor)

· Claims that deputy ordered Hutu killings
· West reluctant to join peacekeeping mission

The deployment of an international peacekeeping force in Darfur was thrown into confusion yesterday by war crimes allegations against its proposed deputy commander.

The United Democratic Force-Inkingi, A Rwandan opposition group, accused Major General Karenzi Karake of responsibility for carrying out political assassinations and ordering reprisal killings against Hutus in Rwanda and Zaire in the years after the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when he was the country's chief of military intelligence.

The Rwandan government rejected the allegations as "wild and unfounded". According to a military spokesman, Major Jill Rutaremara, they represented an effort by those responsible for the genocide "to tarnish Rwanda's image and to derail efforts at stabilising peace in Sudan".

"Such unfounded allegations should be treated with the contempt they deserve," he said in a statement.

Gen Karake has been nominated as the deputy commander of a joint UN and African Union (AU) force established by a security council resolution engineered by Gordon Brown and French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The resolution, which was approved unanimously last month, was seen as the prime minister's first foreign policy success.

A foreign office spokeswoman said that the appointment of force commanders was a job for the UN department of peacekeeping operations. But British officials are concerned that if there was any substance to the allegations it could discredit the Darfur mission.

UN officials were taken by surprise by the allegations against Gen Karake, having been assured there were no significant allegations against him on record. They have demanded an explanation from the head of the Rwandan delegation to the UN.

Meanwhile, the AU confirmed the general's appointment without consulting the UN - a sign of possible coordination problems to come in deploying the world's biggest peacekeeping force.

Jordi Palou-Loverdos, a lawyer who is taking Rwandan military leaders to court in Spain for the murder of nine Spanish missionaries and humanitarian workers, argued that Gen Karake had questions to answer as he was in a senior military position when the killings took place.

"I would say that for a senior Rwandan officer under suspicion to be nominated at this point may not be a prudent decision for the UN," Mr Palou-Loverdos said.

No western countries have offered troops for the force, raising concerns over its capacity to stop the killing in Darfur and assure delivery of humanitarian supplies.

With less than a fortnight to go before a deadline for troop contributions for the UN/AU joint force, it is still short of pledges of specialised units, such as communications, airlift, and engineering, that well-funded western armies could provide. "We have the muscle for the force, but not the connective tissue," said a UN official. "Unfortunately, there have so far been no troop offers from industrialised countries, which is regrettable."

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