IMPORTANT: UN's Pronk calls for AU force to be extended indefinitely
AP report - UN chief in Sudan says UN peacekeeping mission to Darfur unlikely, calls for strategy change - via IHT 28 Sep 2006:
Sending UN peacekeepers to Darfur is unlikely to take place soon, and the international community should instead push for the existing African Union mission to remain in the war-torn region indefinitely, the head of the U.N. in Sudan said Thursday.Sep 29 2006 ST - Sudanese policemen held hostage by ex-Darfur rebels in Khartoum
"I don't expect the government to accept a U.N. transition any time soon," Jan Pronk told The Associated Press.
"The international community should instead push for the African Union's mission to be prolonged and reinforced," Pronk said in an interview at the U.N. headquarters in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.
He called for the AU force to be extended indefinitely to prevent jeopardizing humanitarian work in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced in three years of fighting.
Pronk said he was confident the Sudanese government would allow the African troops to stay on in Darfur, though for now Khartoum only has agreed to keeping them an extra three months.
He also urged the international community to change strategy and guarantee more funds to the AU, so it can implement peacekeeping without the constant pressure of diplomatic deadlines.
"Otherwise, we're shooting ourselves in the foot each time," he said. "Our first priority must be to help the people of Darfur."
The current 7,000-strong AU force was due to leave Darfur at the end of September but recently prolonged its mission until the end of the year. U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton called it a temporary measure as the international community builds up pressure on Sudan to accept the blue helmets.
But Pronk said he didn't expect the Sudanese government to agree to that soon and said there was "no possibility" that the Security Council would pass a new resolution allowing U.N. peacekeepers to invade.
Earlier this week, Sudan's top official for Darfur said the government was willing to let a trickle of U.N. military advisers join the AU forces, describing it as "a third way" that could resolve the stand off between Khartoum and the United Nations.
Pronk said these discussions were now being settled and the first batch of 105 U.N. military advisers and dozens of police could be sent to Darfur "very soon." He hinted that their numbers could be increased "in a step by step process."
Meanwhile, the AU has pledged to boost its force by up to 4,000 troops. Some of the African soldiers would be immediately available, but the AU says it doesn't have the cash to send them in.
Pronk said there were reports that the AU force was so strapped for cash that some soldiers in Darfur were not being fed, and that patrols weren't going out because there was no gasoline for their armored vehicles.
The U.N. chief maintained that the Darfur Peace Agreement signed in May between the government and one rebel faction was "in a coma," an assessment that angers Khartoum but that Pronk says reflects the worsening humanitarian situation.
Both government forces and rebels have violated the cease-fire more than 70 times between May and August, and there were new violations in September since Khartoum launched a large scale offensive in northern Darfur, Pronk said.
The government has announced it created the Darfur Transitional Regional Authority, a makeshift organization meant to provide some of the power sharing demanded by rebels. But Pronk said both Khartoum and rebels were in "total noncompliance" with the peace deal.
He said that Khartoum and the rebels who signed the deal were barring other factions from joining the commission meant to monitor the cease-fire, and that the U.N. was barely granted an observer's status.
"We are being silenced, which is preposterous," Pronk said.
He also said Khartoum was making little effort at disarming the Janjaweed, a pro-goverment militia of Arab tribes accused of most of the atrocities against ethnic African villagers.
Pronk said he was skeptical that U.N. troops would manage to enforce peace if a broader political solution to salvage the peace agreement was not found soon.
Even the rebel group that signed the peace remains on critical terms with the government. On Thursday, tensions degenerated into an open shootout in Omdurman, an affluent neighborhood of Khartoum. Rebel leaders say they took three police officers hostage in retaliation to the arrest of two of their members.
Pronk said one man was killed during the shooting. "That (the conflict) has now reached Khartoum is just another proof of how bad things are," Pronk said.
At least 350,000 people are cut off from any aid in North Darfur because of the intensified fighting there, the U.N. says. At least another 100,000 people have fled their homes.
The U.N. says it has reports that Janjaweed are holding some 7,000 people hostage in a detention camp in South Darfur, including women and children, asking for a ransom to let them leave safely. Other militia attacks on refugee camps have been reported across Darfur this week.
Sep 28 2006 (Khartoum) via ST Sep 29: Sudanese authorities, Ex-Darfur rebels clash in Khartoum
Sep 29 2006 AP report By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU - U.N. Peacekeepers in Darfur Unlikely: Pronk said one man was killed during the clashes.
Photo and caption via Soldier of Africa blog, authored by a SA soldier in Darfur: "The soldiers of 6 SAI Bn are Air Assault trained and love helicopters. Unfortunately in Sudan the elements working with us were not and the mission was observation. Air Assault tactics would have been perfect to track down and neutralise beligerants who maim and kill innocent civilians in Darfur. Very few ever get away from a good tracker and helicopter-bourne reaction force." Sep 2006
Photo and caption via Soldier of Africa blog, authored by a SA soldier in Darfur: "One of the reasons why we are the best in Africa is because we do constant training. Here the South Africans do musketry training in Sector 6. South African soldiers are trained to fire well-aimed shots. With the R 4 rifle a South African soldier is a world class fighting man." Sep 2006
South African Patrol Preparation
Photo and caption via Soldier of Africa blog, authored by a SA soldier in Darfur: "Before a patrol the South Africans in Sector 6 do an organised and structured final inspection before going. Sector 6 is currently still the most dangerous sector in Darfur." Sep 2006
Photo and caption via Soldier of Africa blog, authored by a SA soldier in Darfur: "This is a photo of Kutum base in Sector 6. The vehicles in the foreground are the South African Army's new Mamba Mk III's." Sep 2006
Photo and caption via Soldier of Africa blog, authored by a SA soldier in Darfur: "These Casspirs were stationed at Kutum. These are armed with twin 7,62mm FN MAG general purpose machine guns, although in South Africa we call them Light Machine Guns. Casspirs have been faithful servants to many South African soldiers in the past and have ensured the safety of many fighting men. The conditions in Sector 6 are ideal for the rugged high-speed cross-country abilities of the Casspir." Sep 2006
South African Soldiers
Photo and caption via Soldier of Africa blog, authored by a SA soldier in Darfur: "I got this photo from Arrie Burger taken in Kutum, Sector 6, just to indicate the morale and discipline of our soldiers over there. They have done well and Arrie's platoon was involved in a contact about four weeks ago. At least five rebels or militia were killed and only one of ours wounded through both legs. Now these guys are back in South Africa. Well done, boys." Sep 2006