Home | News    Monday 28 July 2008

Darfur peacekeepers must do better - groups

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July 27, 2008 (NAIROBI) — UN peacekeepers in Darfur, despite being severely under-equipped and under-manned, can and must do far more to protect civilians in the war-torn Sudanese region, aid groups said in a report Monday.

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a Nigerian soldier serving with the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)

The joint UN-African Union force known as UNAMID is "in danger of becoming the world’s latest broken promise," said the report by the Darfur Consortium, a coalition of more than 40 aid groups operating in Africa.

This is because the Sudanese government is failing to let it deploy fully, because the UN and the African Union have not given it their full political backing, and because donor countries have not fulfilled their pledges to support the mission, it said.

But despite this, the force, which has shown "some small examples of the positive impact it could have in improving lives in Darfur," could be doing a lot more while it waits for its full deployment, said the Darfur Consortium.

The Darfur conflict broke out in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated regime in Khartoum and state-backed militias.

The UN has said that 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have been displaced. Khartoum puts the number of dead at 10,000.

The UNAMID mission took over from a small African Union force last December 31, but only 7,600 troops and 1,500 police have been deployed, barely a third of the projected total of 19,500 soldiers and 6,500 policemen.

The Darfur Consortium report said that "while UNAMID does not have the capacity to respond to large-scale fighting, it must begin to respond forcibly to the daily, smaller attacks on civilians."

It should begin accompanying men and women to protect them from attack when they go looking for firewood or to markets.

It must also "increase UNAMID presence across Darfur, expand patrols inside and outside of (displaced people) camps," the report urged.

The consortium urged donor countries to back their pledges and deploy the troops they promised and asked the UN and the AU to give the force their full political backing, and requested Khartoum to allow deployment.

It said that "donor countries must provide the necessary basic equipment, including 18 transport helicopters, at least four more tactical helicopters, and six transport vehicles."

Seven peacekeepers died and 22 were wounded in an ambush by heavily armed militia on July 8, the deadliest in a series of attacks on UNAMID personnel.

UN officials said Friday that Sudan government planes had bombed Darfur this week despite a highly publicised peace pledge from Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir during a visit to the region.

(AFP)

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