Home | News    Friday 30 July 2004

Obasanjo wants more African Union forces sent to Sudan

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ACCRA, July 30 (AFP) — Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the current head of the African Union (AU), said Friday that more African troops than planned should go to the strife-torn western Sudan region of Darfur.

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Olusegun Obasanjo

"I sent a fact-finding mission to Darfur and they came back just three days ago... (having) found a formal deterioration from when we met in Addis Ababa at the beginning of this month," Obasanjo said in the Ghanaian capital.

After delays, the AU plans next week to deploy some 300 troops to Darfur by the end of July to protect its team of observers and monitors overseeing the implementation of a shaky ceasefire between the Khartoum government and two rebel groups in Darfur.

The remote region has not only been riven by conflict since February last year, but the United Nations describes the situation in Darfur as the world’s worst current humanitarian crisis.

Up to 50,000 people have died and more than a million been driven from their homes since ethnic minority rebels launched an uprising early last year against the Sudanese army and its Arab militia allies.

"We in the AU agreed to provide a protection force," Obasanjo said, speaking on the margins of a summit of 13 African heads of state and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan primarily to the crisis in Ivory Coast.

"We also agreed that if the number of the protection force that we agreed in Addis Ababa at the beginning of the month was not enough, we will ask for additions," said the Nigerian president, whose country will be sending troops.

"With what we have on the ground now it appears we must have additional forces of protection," he added.

Obasanjo called on development partners and the international community to assist in the area of logistics and supply of humanitarian aid to the devastated region.

Asked about the Khartoum government’s likely response to the deployment of further foreign forces to Darfur, Obasanjo replied: "Sudan is not rejecting the deployment of African troops."

Officials in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital and headquarters city of the AU, said Netherlands will provide planes to transport the protection force to Darfur region, which was planned for end of July, but delayed due to logistical problems.

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