EL FASHER, Sudan - The U.N. Security Council got a firsthand look yesterday at the worsening conflict in Darfur, which has killed up to 300,000 people and forced 2.5 million to flee their homes.
Facing one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, the council delegation met with officials from the U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force that has struggled to get up to its full strength of 26,000 troops since its January launch.
The force - key to helping protect civilians in the many camps of displaced Darfurians - now stands at 9,000 troops.
The delegation also toured Zamzam camp near El Fasher, housing tens of thousands of Darfurians displaced by the violence.
"I come away feeling very frustrated," said Dumisani Kumalo, South Africa's U.N. envoy. He said there were complaints in the delegation that not enough time was allotted in the camp. "It's like we're tourists."
Kumalo's co-leader on the delegation, Britain's U.N. ambassador, John Sawers, was the only one to take a walk outside the barbed wire.
Asked how they could come all the way from New York and not go see how displaced Darfurians live, Kumalo was defensive. He said the council talked to representatives of the displaced, including women, at a closed meeting in the compound.
Kumalo told reporters that while there was an impression at the U.N. headquarters that the Sudanese government was responsible for many of the problems, there is also the reality that the U.N.-AU mission is "horribly underserved and under-resourced."
One stumbling block has been the Sudanese government's reluctance to allow non-African troops into the region.