Home | News    Sunday 31 October 2004

Rwandan troops to help secure Sudan

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By MOHAMED OSMAN, Associated Press Writer

KHARTOUM, Sudan, Oct 31, 2004 (AP) — Dozens of Rwandan soldiers arrived in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region aboard two U.S. Air Force transport planes to beef up a tiny African contingent widely seen as the main hope to stabilizing the area.

Rwandan soldiers are greeted by Nigerian peacekeeping soldiers, right, as they disembark from a U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo plane at the El Fasher airport, Saturday, Oct.30, 2004 in Darfur as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission to Sudan.

Maj. Mac Dorbi, the Ghanian chief operations officer for the African Union Mission in the Sudan, said 65 Rwandan soldiers arrived Saturday at an airport in al-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, following a four-hour flight.

They are joining an AU protection force, which is guarding organization monitors keeping check on a shaky April 4 cease-fire agreement.

"We need them (the new soldiers) because we have to go on active investigations and monitor (the cease-fire)," Dorbi told The Associated Press. "We need more troops to spread out all over the area and react fast to incidents."

A total of 237 Rwandan troops will fly out in the next five days to join 50 Nigerian troops who were deployed in Darfur on Thursday, said Rwandan defense spokesman Lt. Col. Charles Karamba.

The United Nations has called Darfur the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. About 70,000 people have died there since March — mostly through disease and hunger — while 1.5 million people have fled their homes since February 2003. No reliable figures are available for those killed by violence.

Originally a clash between African farmers and Arab nomads over the distribution of scarce resources, the conflict has grown into a counterinsurgency in which pro-government Arab militia have raped, killed and burned the villages of their enemy.

The government denies allegations that it supports the Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed. The Sudanese government also says the U.N.’s death toll is hugely exaggerated, putting it at about 7,000.

A total of 237 Rwandan troops will arrive in the next five days, said Rwandan defense spokesman Lt. Col. Charles Karamba. They are reinforcements for the 390-member AU mission in the region, which is roughly the size of France. The mission will expand to 3,320 people by Nov. 30.

The number of unarmed military observers will expand to 450, a substantial increase from the 80 recently deployed there to investigate and report on violations of a cease-fire between rebel groups fighting government troops and allied militia.

The observers will be protected by an armed security force of more than 2,300 soldiers and another 815 civilian police officers.

Dorbi said the new arrivals were taken to the AU’s nearby headquarters, where they will remain for several days until deploying to Darfur.

"We are planning on doing more airlift operations during the next two weeks, carrying troops that the African Union will ask us to take to Darfur," Healey said.

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