Global Policy Forum

MoD Trains Sudanese Soldiers Linked to Genocide in Darfur


By James Kirkup

May 28, 2007

Britain has been providing military training for members of the Sudanese armed forces, even while condemning the African country's government for the genocide in Darfur. The revelation has unsettled aid agencies and left ministers facing questions about the consistency of its policy towards Sudan.

More than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million more been made refugees by ethnic violence in Darfur in western Sudan. Western governments, including Britain, believe the Sudanese regime is supporting the Arab Janjaweed militias, blamed for much of the violence against the black population of Darfur.

Only last week, Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, warned the Sudanese government to stop the violence in Darfur or face tougher United Nations sanctions, possibly including a no-fly zone to keep Sudanese military aircraft out of the area. But the Ministry of Defence has admitted that as recently as last month it was training Sudanese military officers at British establishments. The MoD said training had been offered to support a 2005 peace deal between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, which waged a long civil war in southern Sudan but has now joined the Khartoum regime. Some 11 "mid and senior ranking members" of the Sudanese forces have attended British military colleges since 2005, nine of them in 2006-7. They have followed courses on "managing defence in a democracy and collective training," the MoD said in a written parliamentary answer slipped out last week as the Commons rose for a recess.

Malcolm Bruce, chairman of the House of Commons international development committee, yesterday said he was concerned about the issue. "On the face of it, this would seem to be inconsistent: Britain has called for sanctions against the government of Sudan and accused the Sudanese military of taking part in the violence in Darfur," he said. "It may very well be that this training is the result of an earlier agreement that has been overtaken by events, but if Britain wants to send a clear and unequivocal message, it would be right to say to Sudan that there will be no such comforts until they comply on Darfur."

James Smith, chief executive of the Aegis Trust, which campaigns to prevent genocide, said: "It is ironic that the British government is training members of the Sudanese army in managing defence in a democracy when Sudan's dictatorship is using that same army to conduct ethnic cleansing in Darfur." Aid agencies were reluctant to comment openly about the situation as their access to Darfur relies on the tacit consent of the notoriously sensitive Sudanese government. But one agency source privately described Britain's military assistance as "very troubling".

In November, it was revealed Sudan's intelligence chief, General Salah Abdallah, was allowed into the UK for medical treatment twice last year.

The MoD did not respond to efforts to obtain comment about the training yesterday.

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