Tanzania seeks review of peacekeeping rules

Tanzania People's Defence Forces spokesman Colonel Kapambala Mgawe addressing the media in Dar es Salaam on July 14, 2013. PHOTO | THE CITIZEN  

Tanzania is seeking to persuade the United Nations to allow its peacekeeping forces to use deadly force and heavy weapons to defend themselves when under attack.

The development came just a day after seven Tanzanian soldiers who were part of the UN Mission in Darfur (Unamid) were killed and 17 others injured.

Both the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma condemned the attack, but the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces (TPDF) believes the death toll would not have been as high if the troops were allowed to use deadly force to defend themselves.

“We are only allowed to use armoured personnel carriers under Chapter VI. This puts our troops in danger in such volatile areas like Darfur. We are seeking permission for Unamid to be allowed to use heavier weapons, including tanks,” TPDF spokesman Colonel Kapambala Mgawe told The Citizen newspaper yesterday on the sidelines of a briefing on the Darfur tragedy.

Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter sets out the UN Security Council’s powers to maintain peace. It allows the Council to “determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression” and to take military and non-military action to “restore international peace and security”. This seemingly allows the use of heavier military equipment for defensive purposes.

However, Chapter VI, despite having the same purpose of maintaining peace, puts more emphasis on peaceful settlement of disputes and allows only the use of light firearms for defence.

The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which also involves Tanzanian troops, is well equipped and uses helicopter gunships and other heavy weapons.

The Tanzanian soldiers were attacked by gunmen about 25 kilometres west of a Unamid base at Khor Abeche, north of the South Darfur state capital of Nyala, on Saturday.

Minnawi faction

In another development, Col Mgawe said a high-powered team had been dispatched to Khartoum and Darfur following the deadly attack.

He declined to give details, but said the delegation comprised senior officials from the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation ministry and TPDF officers.

The team will also arrange for the bodies of the slain soldiers and the injured to be ferried back home. TPDF has not named the fallen soldiers until their next of kin are informed.

Tanzania contributed 875 troops to Unamid in February.

The Sudan Liberation Movement’s Minni Minnawi faction, a rebel group in Sudan’s Darfur region, yesterday accused militia linked to the Sudanese government of carrying out the ambush that killed the UN peacekeepers.

“We don’t have any doubt that the act was done by government militia who are deployed in Khor Abeche area. This area is completely under government control,” the group’s spokeman, Mr Abdullah Moursal, said.

But in a swift response, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied that the government was involved in the attack.

It instead blamed the Minnawi faction. “The SLM/Minnawi faction is responsible for this cowardly attack,” said the statement seen by The Citizen.

“This movement is still threatening internal and regional stability,” the statement added.

Khartoum has confirmed its commitment to holding a transparent investigation and bring those responsible to justice.

Saturday’s attack has been described as the worst in Unamid’s five-year history, but it is not the first.

Six Unamid peacekeepers have been killed in attacks in Darfur since last October. More than 40 peacekeepers have died in hostile action since the mission’s establishment in 2007. Unamid has about 16,500 troops and military observers and over 5,000 international police.

Rebels have been fighting the government for years in Darfur, but the UN says worsening inter-tribal clashes have been responsible for most of the violence this year.

Additional reporting by Mohammed Amin in Khartoum and Machel Amos in Juba

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