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African Union to probe allegations of sexual abuses in Darfur

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April 4, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Reacting to reports about sexual abuse in Sudan’s Darfur region committed by African peacekeeping force, the African Union said it will probe these allegations and an independent panel is formed to this regard.

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A Chadian refugee hides between relatives after her family fled to Geylu in Sudan’s troubled western Darfur region March 18, 2006.(Reuters).

In a press statement, Head of the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS) , Baba Gana Kingibe has said the AU is "determined to take all necessary measures to establish the facts of these allegations".

According to the British Channel 4, women and children in Geraida in Southern Darfur claim they have been raped by the very guards who are meant to be protecting them, said a video report aired on 2 April 2006.

Kingibe said he constituted a committee independent of AMIS to investigate, expeditiously and in a transparent manner, all the accusations contained in this broadcast”.

This panel will also include members drawn from organizations outside the African Union and will be given a totally free hand and all necessary means to conduct its investigation.

The AU urged all concerned, especially Channel 4 and its reporters as well as the purported victims of the alleged crimes to cooperate with the committee. AU personnel are instructed to similarly cooperate fully with the committee, the AU statement said.

During the past couple of months “spate of orchestrated allegations of this nature began to be levelled against the Forces, especially in the Graida and Marla areas” said the statement.

“All allegations that had been brought to the attention of the AMIS authorities were thoroughly investigated and found to be baseless”.

AMIS, which was deployed in August 2004, has been hampered by poor funding and inadequate resources, and has been unable to contain the escalating bloodshed in Darfur, a region in western Sudan that is the size of France.

The AU is almost entirely dependent on foreign donations to pay for the 7,800-strong AMIS force and earlier this month agreed in principle to hand over the Darfur mission to the United Nations.

At an annual Arab summit in Khartoum, leaders promised to fund the cash-strapped AU force from Oct. 1, but the AU has renewed its mandate only until the end of September.

Bizarrely, Sudan who is refusing the U.N. takeover of the AU mission in Darfur, was very hostile to the presence of the AU troops in Darfur accusing them of bringing HIV/AIDS to the region. Now it seems that rebel groups, who are favourable to the UN takeover, are encouraging such confessions of sexual abuse to discredit the AU force.

On September 6, 2005, the AMIS confirmed the death of two officers of complications arising from HIV/AIDS infection.

(ST)

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