Home | News    Thursday 29 July 2004

African Union delays deployment of Darfur force to early August

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ADDIS ABABA, July 29 (AFP) — The deployment of an African Union (AU) protection force in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, which was planned for the end of July, has been delayed because of logistical problems, an official said.

"The AU is ready even today to dispatch the protection force to Darfur, provided the international community is ready to (give us) transport planes and assure us that the camp sites are ready for troop accommodation," the AU Conflict Management Centre Deputy Director El Ghassim Wane told AFP.

Wane said the troops would be deployed in "the first week of August," if the two setbacks are addressed.

He admitted that the pan-African body, like its toothless predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which it replaced in 2002, is also facing notable financial problems.

AU has finalized consultations with Nigeria and Rwanda, the two African nations that have confirmed contributing soldiers, Wane added.

Early this month, AU planned to send some 300 troops to Darfur by the end of July to protect its team of observers and monitors overseeing the implementation of a shaky ceasefire between the Khartoum government and two rebel groups — Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM).

The pan-African body said on Wednesday it is studying the "possibility" of transforming the protection force into a "full-fledged peacekeeping mission" in Darfur.

The rebels rose up against Khartoum in February 2003, claiming that the mainly black African region had been ignored by the Arab government.

The uprising prompted a heavy-handed crackdown by regular troops and horse-riding militia called Janjaweed, which have carried out what aid and rights groups have called a massive campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The death toll could be as high as 50,000 and about 1.2 million people have been displaced in the region in 17 months of conflict that resulted in what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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