Home | News    Tuesday 30 December 2003

Berlin may send peacekeepers to Sudan


By Deutsche Welle

BERLIN, Dec 30, 2003 — The German Deputy Foreign Minister has indicated Berlin is considering sending peacekeeping troops to war-torn Sudan under a U.N. mandate, adding a further dimension to the Bundeswehr’s deployment in Africa.

German Deputy Foreign Minister Kerstin Müller said on Tuesday that the German government was contemplating sending civil experts and peacekeeping troops to the east African nation of Sudan, which is inching closer to a peace deal after nearly 20 years of civil war.

"For the first time there’s a very good chance for peace there," Müller (photo) said in an interview with German daily Berliner Zeitung. "We must support it and fight the roots of terrorism. The region around the Horn of Africa after all has proved to be a breeding ground for terror."

The minister stressed she was in favor of participating in the peace process provided the United Nations agreed to set up a peacekeeping mandate in Sudan. "We’ll probably first send our civilian experts there," Müller said. "But we must also examine how far we can contribute to a Sudan mission, not just in the civilian aspect, but also possibly on the military front within a small framework," she added.

Sudan close to a peace deal?

On Monday, Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (photo) said he expected his government and southern rebels to reach a peace agreementwithin a week, bringing an end to more than a year of negotiations in Kenya.

The two-decades-old civil war between Khartoum’s Islamist government and separatist rebels in the mainly Christian and animist south has claimed an estimated two million lives, mainly through hunger and disease. The U.N. estimates that more than 60,000 people have been uprooted by fighting in the west Sudanese region of Darfur.

"Appalling" humanitarian situation

In early December German and French diplomats warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Sudan during a visit to the conflict zone in western Sudan. German diplomat Hans Günter Gnodtke described the situation in refugee camps in the desert region of Dafur on the border to Chad as "appalling" and said there was a serious lack of food, medicines and medical help in the area.

Both Germany and France have been supporting mediation attempts by the neighboring Chad government between the Dafur rebels and the Sudanese government.

Even U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Anan said recently the situation in Sudan was "alarming" and said close to a million people were affected by "a rapid worsening of the humanitarian situation."

Concrete German aid to Khartoum

On Tuesday Kerstin Müller also said Germany had already set aside a concrete aid budget for Sudan.

"Germany already has eared some ?80 million in aid in addition to the ?480 million from the European Union, 25 percent of which Germany is shouldering," she said.

The United States has also promised $700 million to the region if the two sides manage to clinch a successful peace deal and suggest that the peace accord could be signed in January in Washington.

Further African deployment for German army

A possible deployment to Sudan would add a further destination to the German army’s deployment on the African continent. So far the German army’s activities in Africa have largely been concerned with dismantling terrorism structures and cells under the mandate of the U.S.-led "Operation Enduring Freedom Freedom."

Currently about 300 German soldiers are stationed in the port of Djibouti in eastern Africa. They patrol the waters around the Horn of Africa as well as the southern flanks of the Red Sea, the coast along Somalia and the Gulf of Aden. Supported by 150 marine personnel in Kenya as well as reconnaissance planes and a fleet of ships, they are responsible for keeping shipping routes free and monitoring suspicious vessels supplying suspected terrorist groups.

In November this year, the German parliament extended by a year the mandate for 3,100 soldiers working in Africa, Afghanistan and Kuwait as part of "Operation Enduring Freedom."

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