Assisting the African Union in Darfur, Sudan

  • Last updated 27-Oct-2010 15:23

The African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) aimed to end violence and improve the humanitarian situation in a region that has been suffering from conflict since 2003.


From June 2005 to 31 December 2007, NATO helped the AU expand its peacekeeping mission in Darfur by providing airlift for the transport of additional peacekeepers into the region and by training AU personnel. NATO support did not imply the provision of combat troops.

Alliance support ended on 31 December 2007 when AMIS was transferred to the United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). The Alliance has expressed its readiness to consider any requests for support to the new UN-AU hybrid peacekeeping force made up of peacekeepers and civilian police officers.

Airlifting AU peacekeepers and civilian police

Between 1 July 2005 and October 2005, NATO coordinated the strategic airlift for peacekeepers from African troop-contributing countries moving into Darfur, helping to transport almost 5 000 troops. This boosted the number of troops on the ground, which initially totaled 3,000.

In August 2005, on the request of the AU, the North Atlantic Council agreed to assist in the transportation of civilian police. NATO coordinated the airlift of some 50 AMIS civilian police between August and October 2005.

Additionally, from September 2005, NATO provided the coordination of strategic airlift for the rotation of troops, transporting them in and out of the region.

Overall, since the start of the mission, NATO-EU Air Movement Coordinators harmonised the airlift of some 37 500 troops, civilian police and military observers in and out of the Sudanese region. NATO alone coordinated the airlift of over 31 500 AMIS troops and personnel.

NATO's airlift was managed from Europe. A special AU Air Movement Cell at the AU’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, coordinated the movement of incoming troops and personnel on the ground. Both the European Union and NATO provided staff to support the cell, but the African Union had the lead.

Training AU personnel

For the duration of the mission, NATO also provided training assistance to AMIS in a variety of disciplines.

  • Strategic level and operational planning: training in this area focused on technologies and techniques to create an overall analysis and understanding of Darfur, and to identify the areas where the application of AU assets could best influence the operating environment and deter crises. A total of 184 AU officers benefited from this training. They were based at two different AMIS headquarters: the Darfur Integrated Task Force Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the AMIS Force Headquarters (FHQ) in El Fasher, Sudan.

    On 2 June 2006, the African Union requested NATO support for the establishment of an AMIS Joint Operations Centre (JOC), which the Alliance agreed to provide six days later.

    Two months later, in August, NATO also contributed to a United Nations led mapping exercise. The aim of the exercise was to help AU personnel understand and operate effectively in the theatre of operations, as well as to build their capacity to manage strategic operations. NATO provided 14 officers, including exercise writers and tactical-level controllers.
  • Training on “lessons learned”: on 8 June 2006, the NAC agreed to the AU request for training assistance in the fields of pre-deployment certification and lessons learned. Following a further AU request on 19 September of the same year, NATO provided mentoring and training on how to establish a tailored “lessons learned” process for the AU. Seventy-five AMIS officers from three different headquarters (the Darfur Integrated Task Force Headquarters, the AMIS Force Headquarters and the AU Mission Headquarters in Khartoum) were trained through these courses.

    In this area, NATO was working in full complementarity with the European Union, which also provided substantive input to the process.  
  • Training in information management: following a Note Verbale sent by the African Union on 25 August 2006, NATO provided temporary training and mentoring on managing information to six AU officers in the Information Assessment Cell of the Darfur Integrated Task Force.

The evolution of NATO’s assistance to AMIS

On 26 April 2005, the African Union asked NATO to consider the possibility of providing logistical support to help expand its peace-support mission in Darfur. In May 2005, the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Mr. Alpha Oumar Konaré, visited NATO Headquarters – the first ever visit of an AU official to NATO HQ – to provide details of the assistance request. The next day, the North Atlantic Council tasked the Alliance’s military authorities to provide, as a matter of urgency, advice on possible NATO support.

Following further consultations with the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations, in June 2005, NATO formally agreed to provide airlift support as well as training. The first planes carrying African Union peacekeepers took off on 1 July of the same year. Training of AU officers started on 1 August and, a few days later, the North Atlantic Council agreed to assist in the transport of police to Darfur.

Key milestones

26 Apr. 2005 The African Union requests, by letter, NATO assistance in the expansion of its peacekeeping mission in Darfur.
17 May 2005 The Chairman of the AU Commission, Mr. Alpha Oumar Konaré, is the first AU official to visit NATO HQ
18 May 2005 The NAC agrees to task the Alliance’s military authorities to provide advice on possible NATO assistance.
24 May 2005 The NAC agrees on initial military options for possible NATO support.
26 May 2005 NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer participates in a meeting in Addis Ababa on international support to the African Union’s mission.
8 June 2005 NATO agrees on the detailed modalities of Alliance support.
9 June 2005 Alliance Defence Minister formally announced the decision to assist the African Union peace support operation in Darfur with the coordination of strategic airlift and staff capacity-building.
1 July 2005 The NATO airlift begins.
1 August 2005 NATO training of AU officers begins.
5 August 2005 On the request of the African Union, the NAC agrees to assist in the transport of civilian police to Darfur.
18-27 August 2005 NATO provides support to an UN-led map exercise to help AU personnel operate effectively in the theatre of operations and develop their capacity to manage strategic operations.
21 September 2005 The NAC agrees to extend the duration of NATO’s airlift support for the remaining peacekeeping reinforcements until 31 October 2005.
9 November 2005 The NAC agrees to extend NATO’s coordination of strategic airlift by two months, until end May 2006, in view of the African Union’s troop rotation schedule.
29 March 2006 Following a phone call from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 27 March, the NAC announces its readiness to continue NATO’s current mission. The NAC tasks NATO military authorities to offer advice for possible NATO support to an anticipated follow-on UN mission in Darfur.
13 April 2006 The NAC announces its readiness to continue NATO’s current mission until 30 September.
5 May 2006 Two parties sign the Darfur Peace Agreement.
30 May 2006 UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mr. Jan Egeland, visits NATO HQ to discuss Darfur and the role of the military in disaster relief.
2 June 2006 The Chairman of the African Union Commission, Mr. Alpha Oumar Konaré, requests the extension of NATO’s airlift and training support, as well as additional forms of assistance.
8 June 2006 Defence Ministers state NATO’s willingness to expand its training assistance to AMIS in the fields of Joint Operations Centres, pre-deployment certification and lessons learned. They also state the Alliance's willingness to consider support to an anticipated follow-on UN mission. The coordination of strategic airlift is extended until the end of 2006.
16 Nov.2006 Addis Ababa meeting introduces the notion of an AU-UN hybrid peacekeeping mission.
28-29 Nov.2006 At the Riga Summit, NATO reaffirms its support to the African Union and its willingness to broaden this support. It also reiterates its commitment to coordinating with other international actors.
14 Dec.2006 NATO decides to extend its support mission for six additional months.
15 Dec. 2006 US Special Envoy to Darfur, Ambassador Andrew Natsios, meets NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, at NATO HQ.
15 Jan.2007 NATO agrees to provide staff capacity-training at the AU Mission HQ in Khartoum, in addition to training provided in El Fasher and Addis Ababa.
14 June 2007 NATO Defence Ministers reiterate the Alliance’s commitment to Darfur and welcome the agreement of the Sudanese Government to an UN-AU hybrid mission in Darfur.
6-7 Dec. 2007 NATO Foreign Ministers express readiness to continue Alliance support to the African Union in Darfur, following consultation and agreement with the United Nations and the African Union.

The bodies involved in decision-making and implementation

Based on advice from NATO’s military authorities, the Alliance’s top political decision-making body – the North Atlantic Council – agrees to provide support to the African Union.

With regard to NATO’s support to the AU mission in Sudan (AMIS), the Joint Command Lisbon – under the overall command of Allied Command Operations - had the responsibility for the NATO Senior Military Liaison Officer (SMLO) team operating out of Addis Ababa.

The SMLO team was NATO's single military point of contact in Addis Ababa with the African Union. In addition, it was the NATO military point of contact with the representatives of the countries contributing troops to the AMIS operation, the representatives of the donor nations pledging support to the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union and various embassies.