Home | News    Tuesday 5 April 2005

AU report says Sudan’s Darfur force should be doubled by August

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ADDIS ABABA, April 5 (AFP) — An internal African Union (AU) report has called on the 53-member bloc to double the size of its military force in Sudan’s troubled western region of Darfur over the next four months, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.

General Festus Okonkwo, AU commander in Darfur. (Reuters).

The report, compiled by officials from the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations who toured Darfur last month, recommends that the AU mission be expanded to 6,000 troops by August, the sources said.

"It proposes that from June to August, the AU mission be doubled to 6,000 soldiers and some 1,000 police officers," an AU diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The AU now has some 2,200 troops in Darfur protecting AU observers monitoring a shaky ceasefire between Khartoum, its proxy militia and two rebel groups who have been fighting the government for two years.

By the end of May, the AU plans to have boosted that number to 3,200 soldiers.

The report, the findings of which must still be approved by the AU’s Peace and Security Council which must authorize such an expansion, also says the pan-African body should decide in September whether to increase the mission even further to 12,000 troops, the diplomat said.

The two-year-old conflict in Darfur has killed at least 180,000 and displaced more than 1.8 million others, while about 200,000 have fled to neighboring Chad.

Early last month, UN Humanitarian Affairs Secretary General Jan Egeland called for an urgent troop reinforcement to curb the rising number of refugees fleeing violence from the area.

Egeland said a 10,000-strong force was needed to ease security risks that he said could lead to the number of refugees rising to between three and four million.

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