Donors pledge US $220m to boost African force in Darfur
Aid donors meeting in the Belgian capital have pledged about US $220 million in additional funding to the African Union (AU) force in Darfur.
During Tuesday's pledging conference in Brussels, representatives of the international donor community insisted that the AU peacekeeping mandate must be transferred to the United Nations by 1 January 2007.
"I can't foresee any realistic exit of the Darfur conflict without such a transition [from AU to UN peacekeeping], and I can't either imagine that the government of Sudan would continue to oppose it," the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana said at the conference.
The United States said it would give $116 million to be used to strengthen the Africa Mission in Sudan, while the EU will make available $31.2 million to the Mission on top of an additional $50 million for the humanitarian effort in Darfur. The Netherlands pledged $31.2 million, Britain $36.6 million, France $2.5 million and Belgium $1.25 million.
The pledges would only be enough to sustain the Mission until the end of September; it needs an extra $450 million to operate until year-end, to pay for extra soldiers to be deployed, communications equipment, air support capability and more vehicles.
"The situation is precarious. The strengthening of [the Africa Mission] should be our priority because the next six months are critical," said the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Jean-Marie Guehenno. "If we have a strong [Africa Mission], we will have a strong UN mission," he added.
A senior European Commission official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the real problem was that the "the AU is snowed under with the complexities of financial management".
Photo: European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana (L) and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan hold a joint news conference during an International Conference on Darfur at the European Council in Brussels July 18, 2006. Reuters/Francois Lenoir