Home | News    Tuesday 12 June 2007

Sudan accepts AU-UN force in Darfur

June 12, 2007 (ADDIS ABABA) — Sudan accepted Tuesday the deployment of a hybrid African Union-United Nations force for Darfur, in a move to end the violence and bring humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged region.

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A Rwandan-AU soldier boards a helicopter in Sudan’s Darfur.

A joint statement by the AU, UN and Sudan said the Khartoum government had "accepted the joint proposals of the hybrid operation" and that delegates at the three-way talks had agreed on the need for a comprehensive ceasefire accompanied by a inclusive political process.

"The proposed operation would contribute considerably to the stabilisation of the situation in Darfur, in its political, humanitarian and security dimensions," said the statement read by the AU Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit in the Ethiopian capital.

Khartoum had previously rejected attempts to send UN peacekeepers to Darfur, where a four-year conflict has killed at least 200,000 people and forced more than two million from their homes, according to the United Nations.

There are currently around 7,000 AU peacekeepers in Darfur but they have been unable to stem the clashes in the region the size of France owing to a severe shortage of funding and equipment.

Sudan’s delegate to the talks, Mutrif Seddik, said his government’s position on an AU-UN force has been misunderstood, adding that Khartoum backed the proposal last November and what was needed were "some declarations and clarifications."

Sudan had accepted two of a three-phase plan proposed last year for peacekeeping operations in Darfur but had not signed off on the details of the final phase.

"Now we have the shape, the mandate, the command and control — the components of the hybrid force. It is a good move toward peace in Darfur," Seddik told AFP Tuesday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed the agreement saying he looked forward "to expeditiously implementing the three-phase approach to peacekeeping in Darfur," said UN spokeswoman Michele Montas in a statement.

Dimitri Titov, the head of UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, said the hybrid force will comprise some 17,500 to 19,600 troops in addition to more than 6,000 policemen.

The UN envoy said the Darfur peacekeeping efforts would be a "lasting, daunting, dangerous operation," calling for "a lot of dedication."

"The peacekeeping operation is not the only solution, the only solution lays in the political sphere where an inclusive political process will be required," Titov said.

According to the Sudanese government, some 9,000 people have died since war erupted in Darfur in early 2003 when ethnic minority rebels rose up against it.

The Janjaweed militia group was then enlisted to help crush the rebellion — although Khartoum denies that charge.

Sudan reached a peace agreement with Darfur rebels on May 5, 2006 in Nigeria but only one of three negotiating rebel factions endorsed the deal.

The violence has since spiralled, hindering effective humanitarian operations. In addition, the fragmentation of the Darfur rebels has scuppered efforts to stabilise the region.

(AFP)