Home | News    Tuesday 8 March 2005

African Unions chairman calls for more African peacekeepers

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By ANTHONY MITCHELL, Associated Press Writer

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Mar 8, 2005 (AP) — The chairman of the African Union called on member nations Tuesday to contribute more troops for peacekeeping operations across the continent, including in Sudan, Ivory Coast and Congo.

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Alpha Oumar Konare

Alpha Oumar Konare, the former president of Mali, also said more humanitarian aid is needed if the world wants to solve the crises in Africa, the world’s poorest continent.

"This is urgent," he said from the headquarters of the 53-member AU, based in Addis Ababa. "This is the right time to intervene because tomorrow will be too late."

Konare said the situation in Sudan’s western Darfur region required immediate intervention. More than 70,000 people have died in Darfur and 2 million people made homeless as a result of a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

"Everyone is expecting a very difficult situation in Darfur, mostly on the humanitarian dimension," Konare said.

In New York on Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged the Security Council to move faster to confront the crisis in Sudan and called for more international troops in Darfur.

Annan had summoned council ambassadors in hopes that they will break a deadlock over his proposal to send 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers to monitor a peace accord ending years of civil war between the government and southern rebels.

Annan hopes to use that resolution focusing on the end of the north-south conflict to ease violence in the western Darfur region, described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. In early February, a U.N. panel found evidence of crimes against humanity in Darfur, but council members still haven’t been able to agree on action.

"There have been a lot of efforts on the humanitarian side, and ... on the security side, which go in the right direction. But they are not enough," Annan said. "We keep getting reports which show that the killing and raping and burning are still going on."

Konare said the AU was reassessing the number of peacekeepers and military observers already deployed to Darfur. There are currently 3,000 African troops on the ground.

There have also been calls to deploy more troops to Ivory Coast, Congo and Sudan. He said greater logistical support was needed from wealthy countries.

"Of course many African countries would like to assist us, but you have many logistical problems that have to be addressed by our partners," Konare said.

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