Home | News    Thursday 9 December 2004

African Union ’doing its best’ in Darfur, AU commission chief says

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ADDIS ABABA, Dec 9 (AFP) — The African Union is "doing its best" in Sudan’s western Darfur region, the president of the continental body’s commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, has said, rejecting criticism that the AU has not deployed ceasefire monitors in the region quickly enough.

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Alpha Oumar Konaré

"The AU is doing its best. We face difficulties but there are advances such as the Abuja accords which were reached," Konare told AFP Wednesday.

"While it’s true that there are difficulties in rapidly deploying men on the ground, we are there and we are helping," Konare insisted.

At the end of a third round of African Union sponsored talks for Darfur in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, which ran from October 21 to November 10, the warring parties in the region signed protocols on improving the security situation in Darfur and on humanitarian issues.

The 22-month-old conflict in Darfur, which pits rebels drawn from the region’s mainly black African population against the government in Khartoum and an allied Arab militia, has sparked what the United Nations has termed the world’s worst current humanitarian crisis.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict or died of hunger and disease, while some 1.6 million have been forced to flee their homes, the UN has said.

"I wish well to all those who want the African Union to move aside and the international community to move in," said Konare, implicitly referring to a statement made Tuesday by the US ambassador to the United Nations, John Danforth, who said the international community was "getting nowhere" in easing the crisis in Darfur.

The AU began deploying a mission in Darfur in June to monitor a ceasefire signed between the warring sides in April, and to protect civilians. By early November, the mission was at about one-third of its full strength of 3,320.

"Naturally, many partners are giving us material aid but we also need political aid... Sometimes I ask myself if some conflict situations are encouraged with a view to destabilising the AU," Konare said.

War broke out in Darfur in February 2003, when rebels rose up against Khartoum to demand that their region no longer be left on the sidelines and be given a greater slice of Sudan’s considerable wealth.

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