Home | News    Wednesday 7 June 2006

African Union agrees UN takeover of Darfur peacekeeping

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June 7, 2006 (ADDIS ABABA) — The U.N. Security Council and the African Union said Wednesday they were in total agreement that a U.N. force should take over peacekeeping in Sudan’s conflict-wracked Darfur region and that the African force now on the ground must be reinforced quickly.

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Babagana Kingibe

Both stressed that the Sudanese government must approve the transfer -and were optimistic Khartoum would agree. Khartoum has been reluctant to accept a U.N. force.

Said Djinnat, the commissioner for the A.U. Peace and Security Council, said it was working to upgrade the current 7,000-strong force so it can carry out all the requirements in a peace agreement signed May 5 by the Sudanese government and the largest rebel group in Darfur.

The three-year conflict has claimed at least 180,000 lives and forced over 2 million people to flee their homes. One key provision in the accord calls for protection of civilians in the vast western region.

The U.N., AU and aid groups have reported that violence had worsened since the peace deal was signed, as armed groups try to secure more territory ahead of implementing a cease-fire. It could be months before a U.N. force were in place to try to calm the region.

Djinnat said several battalions are likely to be added to the A.U. force. "I can tell you that it could be raised to the level of 10,000," he told The Associated Press.

A member of the Security Council delegation echoed the 10,000 figure and said the additional troops would likely come from Rwanda, Nigeria and Ghana, and that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would likely provide helicopters and other logistical support. The A.U. police force in Darfur will also likely be doubled from about 1,000 to 2,000, the council delegate said.

The next step is the arrival of a joint U.N.-AU team in Khartoum Friday that will hold talks with the Sudanese government next week and then head to Darfur to make a technical assessment for a possible U.N. peacekeeping mission. The team will then report back to the Sudanese government and its own leaders.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno, who is leading the U.N. assessment team, arrived in Addis Ababa Wednesday and will hold talks with A.U. officials Thursday before flying to Khartoum.

U.K. Ambassador to the U.N. Emyr Jones Parry, head of the Security Council delegation, said the Security Council and the AU agree that the "transition should take place, and that by the beginning of next year there should be a U.N. operation, and it should do so recognizing that it will need to have a strong African character."

Before the U.N. takes over, he said, the AU mission known as AMIS "needs to be reinforced and we will be working together to make sure that AMIS is reinforced to do the tougher mandate that it has to do between now and the transfer," primarily the protection of civilians in Darfur.

Decades of low-level clashes in Darfur over land and water erupted in early 2003 when rebel groups made up of ethnic Africans rose up against the Arab-led Khartoum government. The government is accused of responding by unleashing Arab militias known as the janjaweed who have been accused of some of the worst atrocities - but it denies any involvement.

(ST/AP)

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