Operation SATURN

Operation SATURN was the deployment of a Canadian Forces team to serve with UNAMID, the hybrid operation by the African Union (A.U.) and the United Nations in Darfur.

Canadian Forces activities in Sudan were conducted in close co-operation with Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Task Force Darfur

Task Force Darfur, the Canadian Forces team in UNAMID, had an established strength of six, all staff officers with substantial experience in operations, intelligence, logistics, administration and civil-military co-operation (CIMIC). Each member of the team was assigned to a position at UNAMID Headquarters in El Fasher, Sudan.

Task Force Darfur was quartered at UNAMID Sector North Headquarters, along with a Rwandan infantry battalion. The base at El Fasher was co-located with one of the region’s largest camps for internally displaced people.

Mission context

The conflict

Darfur is the western province of Sudan. War broke out in the region in February 2003, when two rebel groups, the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLA/M) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), took up arms against the Government of Sudan, which itself entered into an alliance with a local militia group known as the Janjaweed.

Intervention in the Darfur crisis began with assistance from the A.U., which collaborated with the U.N. and other international organizations to bring representatives of the SLA and the JEM to negotiate with the Government of Sudan.

The Darfur Peace Agreement

The war in Darfur officially ended on 5 May 2006 with the signature of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) by representatives of the Government of Sudan, the SLA/M and the JEM. Its primary goals were to establish an effective ceasefire and security arrangements, and to secure agreement on how power and wealth are to be shared. The effort to bring other combatant groups into the peace process continues.

Meanwhile, the fighting went on, and vast refugee camps formed in frontier areas and in neighbouring countries. From its outset, the conflict has been marked by atrocities against civilians, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions of Sudanese residents.

U.N. intervention: UNAMID

The intervention in Sudan has been a high priority for the U.N. Security Council and two consecutive Secretaries-General since 2003.

The A.U. fielded the first elements of a peacekeeping force in Darfur under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1564 of 18 September 2004, and by mid-2005 the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) had grown to 7,000 troops. On 16 November 2006, high-level talks in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, led the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations to implement a three-phased plan to expand AMIS and, eventually, to deploy a hybrid A.U.U.N. mission in Darfur.

Intensive private and public diplomacy by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and several actors in the international community resulted in Sudan's acceptance of the hybrid mission in June 2007.

Composition and mandate

UNAMID was established by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1769 of 31 July 2007 under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. It stood up at El Fasher on 1 January 2008, and its current mandate, authorized by Resolution 1935 of 30 July 2010, ends on 31 July 2011.

At full strength, UNAMID has almost 20,000 troops, more than 6,000 police and a significant civilian component, making it one of the largest U.N. peacekeeping operations in history. UNAMID operates from sector headquarters in El Fasher, El Geneina and Nyala, and team sites throughout the three states that make up the province of Darfur.

With a mandate focused on protection of civilians, UNAMID is primarily responsible for monitoring and verifying implementation of the DPA. Its other tasks are: providing security for humanitarian assistance, assisting the development of an inclusive political process, contributing to the promotion of human rights and the rule of law, and monitoring and reporting on the situation along the borders with Chad and the Central African Republic.

Previous Canadian operations in Sudan

Canadian Armed Forces operations in Sudan began in 2005 with the deployment of the first United Nations Military Observers (UNMOs) to serve with the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS, see Operation SAFARI). Soon after, 105 Grizzly and Husky “armoured vehicles, general purpose” (AVGPs) were delivered to Sudan for use by the Nigerian, Rwandan and Senegalese contingents deployed with the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS, see Operation AUGURAL).

On 31 December 2007, AMIS stood down and the U.N. partnered with the A.U. to launch UNAMID as a follow-on mission. Operation SATURN began on the same date as a follow-on mission to Operation AUGURAL, providing staff officers with expertise in logistics to work at UNAMID Headquarters, and Canadian soldiers expert in handling the Husky and Grizzly vehicles to train soldiers of the Nigerian, Rwandan and Senegalese contingents to drive and operate the Canadian AVGPs.

The Husky and Grizzly vehicles remained in service with UNAMID until Nigeria, Rwanda and Senegal completed the introduction of their own armoured vehicles in 2009. At that time, the Canadian armour trainers were withdrawn from Task Force Darfur.

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