Eyewitness Account from Brian Steidle

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Eyewitness Account from Brian Steidle

I posted this over at the Coalition for Darfur blog, but I think it is important so I am posting it here as well.

The American Prospect's Mark Leon Goldberg has interviewed Brian Steidle, the 28-year-old former Marine captain who served as a State Department contractor with the African Union’s (AU) monitoring team in Darfur.

Steidle witnessed a government/Janjaweed attack on the village of Labado and was told that an attack on Muhajeryia was imminent - but the AU, with only 70 lightly armed soldiers, managed to deter it
We knew it was going to be a very ugly fight. With an attack on Muhajeryia imminent, we had to do something. So, under the auspices protecting a civilian contracting group in Muhajeryia, we put 35 AU troops in the village.

So really, you were just fishing for an excuse to deploy the AU troops to the village?

Exactly. The AU troops don’t have a specific mandate to defend civilians or stop a village from attack. But they can be deployed to protect civilian contractors, NGOs, or our 10-man monitoring team. We were hoping that the mere presence of the 35 troops would deter an attack -- and it worked. Neither the Janjaweed nor the Sudanese government advanced. Rather, after about a week, the government forces simply consolidated their position in Labado. Then, about a week after that, we decided to put 70 soldiers from the AU force in Labado itself -- ostensibly to protect my 10-man monitoring team there.

Within two weeks, about 3,000 people returned to the village to rebuild, and we were able to negotiate a withdrawal of the government troops from Labado. Now, the State Department tells me that 10,000 villagers have returned.
Steidle notes that if the AU hopes to repeat this kind of success all over Darfur, it will need 25,000 to 50,000 troops - far more than the 2,000 or so it has now.

I encourage you to read the whole interview.

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