By EDWARD RWEMA, Associated Press Writer
KIGALI, Rwanda, Oct 16, 2004 (AP) — Rwanda will delay sending troops to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region by about a week because preparations have not been made to quarter the soldiers, an official said Saturday.
About 300 Rwandan troops who had been scheduled to arrive on Sunday will probably leave next weekend, Foreign Minister Charles Muligande told The Associated Press.
The 300 troops are part of Rwandan batallion who will join a contingent of 4,500 soldiers who will be deployed in Darfur by the African Union by the end of next month. The 53-nation AU already has about 300 unarmed military observers in the region to monitor a regularly violated cease-fire signed in April.
"By next weekend we will be ready to send 300 troops," Muligande said. "I understand that a construction company is going to start building tents for the troops this weekend. The soldiers are ready, and we are prepared to send as many troops are the African Union wants."
A statement issued Friday by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the current head of the African Union, said the AU force in Darfur will be made up of five battalions, including one each from Rwanda and Nigeria.
The Nigerian troops will be deployed by Oct. 30, Obasanjo said.
There was no word on which other African countries would provide troops for the remaining three battalions, which are expected to be on the ground in Sudan by the end of November.
The U.N. health agency on Friday estimated at least 70,000 people have died since March from poor conditions in refugee camps in Sudan’s Darfur region and warned that more will die at the same rate unless countries provide more money.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and another 1.4 million have been driven from their homes by Arab militias since February 2003.
Originally a clash between African farmers and Arab nomads, the conflict has grown into a counterinsurgency in which pro-government Arab militia have raped, killed and burned the villages of their enemy.
Peace talks aimed at resolving the crisis is expected to resume in Abuja, Nigeria later this month.