Human Rights Watch wants more troops in Darfur
African leaders meeting at the African Union summit on July 1 and 2 must contribute more troops to protect civilians in Darfur and urge Sudan to consent to a UN force in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the leaders.[When did the Sudanese government say it would support the transition to a UN force? How can the Sudanese government renege on a commitment it never made? See June 22 2006 Sudan Watch entry: Human Rights Watch incorrectly says Khartoum is backtracking]
"Violence is rising, and additional African forces are needed to reinforce the 7,000 troops now on the ground, so they can better protect civilians," Peter Takirambudde, said Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The AU council must equip AMIS to robustly and proactively protect civilians," said Takirambudde. "The alarming deterioration in security in Darfur means that even if Khartoum agrees to a UN force tomorrow, AMIS needs more support and capacity now." 
The Sudanese government initially said it would support the transition to a UN force, but only after a peace agreement was reached; now it has reneged on that commitment. On June 20, President Omar al-Bashir said Sudan would never allow UN troops into Darfur, even though a UN force of almost 10,000 is already in Sudan to support the 2005 peace agreement ending the 21-year war waged mostly in the south.
"African leaders should tell Khartoum to accept a UN force," said Takirambudde. "The AU has transferred to UN forces in Burundi and elsewhere in Africa; why should Sudan be different?"
Photo: An African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) platoon leaves Zamzam base to patrol just south of El-Fasher in Darfur, 09 June 2006. Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir said his country could assume peacekeeping operations in Darfur, state media reported, in a fresh rebuff of the UN's deployment plan. (AFP/File/Charles Onians 26 June 2006)