May 4, 2006 (NAIROBI) — The United Nations Development Fund for Women said on Thursday it would participate in the African Union (AU) probe committee looking into claims that AU troops committed sexual abuse in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.
- Displaced women discussing sexual violence around Garsila camp in West Darfur. Women who venture out seeking water and firewood are often attacked. (UNHCR).
In a statement issued in Nairobi, the United Nations Development Fund for Women welcomed the setting up of the committee which is made up of representatives from outside the AU, saying the claims were disturbing.
"The United Nations Development Fund for Women will participatein the AU newly established Committee of Inquiry, following recentreports in the news media of alleged sexual violence, including rape and child abuse, by AU forces in Darfur," said Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, regional program director for the United Nations Development Fund for Women in East and Horn of Africa.
The AU has 7,000 troops guarding some of Darfur’s 2 million displaced people. It is alleged that soldiers who are part of the AU peacekeeping mission in Darfur have paid women in the camps forsex. In April, a British television channel aired allegations fromwomen and girls as young as 11.
Gumbonzvanda welcomed the urgency with which the committee was set up, saying that it gives a ray of hope to African women, children and survivors of violence that impunity and inaction by authorities are being seriously dealt with.
"It sends immediate warning bells to perpetrators of sexual andgender based violence that impunity will no longer be the order ofthe day in Africa," she said.
The Committee of Inquiry is headed by Winnie Byanyima, directorfor women, gender and development of the AU Commission, the secretariat and executive body of the AU.
The Sudanese government is keen for the AU peacekeepers to remain but Darfur’s rebels would like to see them replaced by a larger, more robust United Nations force.