KHARTOUM — The outgoing head of the UN-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur defended his soldiers against persistent criticism of their effectiveness, insisting they have ended the massacres that long plagued the Sudanese region.
"I have achieved results," Rodolphe Adada told AFP in an interview, hitting back at the criticism.
"The main result is the end of massacres in Darfur," he said, as he prepared to step down as head of the world's biggest peacekeeping operation.
Diplomats and observers have slammed the joint United Nations-African Union force (UNAMID) as inefficient, knocking Adada for his conciliatory tone with the Sudanese authorities, which the West accuses of atrocities in Darfur.
"I would like to be judged, for UNAMID to be judged, on the number of deaths in Darfur," since the force's deployment there in 2008, said Adada. "That's how we should be judged."
A former foreign minister of the Republic of Congo, Adada was named Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the African Union for Darfur in May 2007. The mission deployment started on January 1, 2008.
He resigned in July out of "personal choice". His successor has not yet been named.
In a letter accepting the resignation, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon wrote to Adada: "You have led UNAMID with distinction during its most challenging initial deployment phase and in an environment of unprecedented difficulty."
Adada caused an outrcy in April when he told the UN Security Council that Darfur has today become a "low-intensity" conflict.
His comments infuriated diplomats, rebel leaders and pressure groups for whom Darfur is the stage of a genocide orchestrated by President Omar al-Beshir, now wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur.
"Yes, I touched on a taboo, a commercial taboo, which says genocide continues in Darfur. Unfortunately, giving an account of the reality pierces the taboo a little," Adada said.
The war in Darfur has left 300,000 people dead and another 2.7 million homeless since 2003, according to UN figures. Khartoum says 10,000 people died.
"There is no more fighting proper on the ground. Right now there is no high-intensity conflict in Darfur.
"Call it what you will but this is what is happening in Darfur -- a lot of banditry, carjacking, attacks on houses, because there is rupture of law and order," said Adada.
"I think that what is happening on the ground is really a low-intensity conflict, the real full-scale war phase has passed," chimed in outgoing head of military operations, Nigerian Martin Luther Agwai, who will be replaced next week by Rwandan Patrick Nyambumba.
"My deduction is that the movements have become fragmented into small groups, they are not strong enough to do any fighting," except for the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), the most militarised of the 20 or so rebel groups, Agwai added.
A year and a half after its deployment, the peacekeeping mission counts some 18,500 soldiers and policemen, out of the 26,000 mandated by the UN Security Council. The force still lacks military helicopters, hampering its ability to patrol a region the size of France.
Sudan did block parts of the force's deployment, Adada admitted, still putting some of the blame on the international community which failed to deliver the helicopters promised by the mandate.
In dealing with Khartoum, the African diplomat opted for dialogue rather than confrontation.
"There is a government in this country which we can do nothing without," said Adada.
"One could choose another way -- invade the country, remove the government and put a friendly one in its place... otherwise, you must play with the government."
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