On the eve of his retirement on Aug. 26, Gen. Martin Luther Agwai, commander of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur, declared an end to the war in Sudan's southern province. "As of today, I would not say there is a war going on in Darfur," Agwai, a Nigerian, said at a press conference in Khartoum. Agwai's joint U.N.-African Union force, deployed in 2007, numbers around 15,000 soldiers and police.
"Militarily there is not much" going on in Darfur, Agwai said. "What you have is security issues more now. Banditry . . . people trying to resolve issues over water and land at a local level. But real war as such, I think we are over that."
Agwai's comments sparked a firestorm of criticism from aid workers and analysts who have labored to draw international attention, and intervention, to the six-year-old Darfur crisis. Fighting between Khartoum-backed Arab fighters and the ethnic Africans who inhabit Darfur has, since 2003, claimed as many as 300,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands more.