Home | News    Saturday 14 August 2004

First half of protection force leaves Rwanda for Darfur

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NAIROBI, Aug 14, 2004 (dpa) — The first half of an African Union force left Rwanda Saturday for Darfur, where they will protect the ceasefire observers already on the ground.

The A.U. said earlier the 155 Rwandan troops were expected in Darfur on Sunday.

The other half of the 300-man protection force, from Nigeria, is expected next week.

Despite repeated reports by human rights and relief organizations about continued atrocities in most parts of Darfur, the A.U. force will have no mandate to protect civilians or attempt to disarm the feared Janjaweed militia. Its only job is to protect the 120 A.U. ceasefire observers.

An initiative by the A.U. to increase the force to 2,000 troops and strengthen its mandate to make it a fully fledged peacekeeping force has been strongly rejected by the Sudanese government.

Seeing the first part of the force off in the Rwandan capital Kigali Saturday, president Paul Kagame told the British Broadcasting Corporation he would support a larger force in Darfur with a stronger mandate.

Kagame also said the Rwandan soldiers would have to intervene if they witnessed civilians being targeted or killed.

"It is implied, in my view, in their presence there. You cant protect observers without protecting anybody else around".

He said the limitations were rather in the small size of the force, which will number 300 when it is complete.

It would be almost impossible for such a small force to cover an area the size of France.

On July 30, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution demanding the Sudanese government disarm the Janjaweed and improve the humanitarian situation in Darfur, or fact possible sanctions. The U.N. has so far ruled out military intervention.

According to U.N. estimates, up to 50,000 people have died as a result of the 18-month conflict in Darfur, from violence, starvation and disease. At least 1.2 million people have been forced to flee from their homes, while two million people are in acute need of food and medical attention.

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