Home | News    Friday 29 October 2004

Sudan threatens HIV/AIDS tests on Nigerian troops in Darfur

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KHARTOUM, Oct 29 (AFP) — Sudan has given a contingent of Nigerian troops in Darfur until Saturday to produce certificates proving they are not infected with the HIV virus or undergo screening, the official SUNA news agency reported Friday.

A Nigerian officer holds passports for his troops preparing to board a U.S. military plane in the Nigerian capital Abuja, October 28, 2004 before flying to Darfur.

"The authorities will never be tolerant with regards to the safety of the people of the state," the agency quoted North Darfur Gover Osman Youssef Kibir as saying.

He was referring to a group of 47 soldiers who arrived in El-Fasher Thursday as part of the first Nigerian contingent of a reinforced African Union truce-monitoring force in the troubled region.

Health Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said Monday that an AIDS-free policy would be applied to AU troops being deployed in the region.

He said the measure was purely precautionary and aimed at "safeguarding the health of the people of Darfur."

Those coming without internationally recognized health certificates would have to undergo medical tests on entering Sudan and before proceeding to Darfur, the minister added.

SUNA reported that, despite the warning, the Nigerian troops failed to bring the mandatory health certificates, saying that all their documents had been forwarded to AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The AU has announced plans to expand its military presence in Darfur to a 3,250-strong force, with Nigeria contributing a battalion of 770 soldiers.

The force has been set up to monitor a shaky truce signed in April this year between the Khartoum government and Darfur’s two rebel movements.

Both sides accuse the other of repeated ceasefire violations in the region, where 20 months of conflict and massive civilian displacement have spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and left tens of thousands dead.

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