Wednesday, April 06, 2005

AU report says Sudan's Darfur force should be 7,000 by August

In Darfur at the moment there are some 2,200 African Union soldiers. At least 3,000 were promised several months ago, but no clear explanation has been given for the hold up. AU officials went on the record last year saying money was not a problem. They merely cited "accommodation" problems and mentioned the delay was due to American contractors. It is unclear if they meant "shelter" issues or access problems, i.e. Khartoum up to its usual tricks and delaying tactics.

Years ago, the British Army, even with the most primitive of equipment could mobilise and set up tents and hospitals in the middle of a desert, along with accommodation for thousands of soldiers, within a matter of 24 hours. The European Union alone has committed a few hundred million dollars for African Union troops. Why politicians are not providing an explanation for the delay in deploying a further 1,000 African Union troops is beyond me.

An AFP report April 5 mentions the UK is giving the AU technical and logistical support to get the available troops effectively deployed. By the end of May, the AU plans to have boosted the number of soldiers in Darfur to 3,200 but still no reason has been reported for the delay.

AFP also says an AU report has called on the 53-member bloc to double the size of its military force in Darfur over the next four months. The AU report, compiled by officials from the AU, European Union and the UN who toured Darfur last month, recommends that the AU mission be expanded to 6,000 troops by August, sources said.

"It proposes that from June to August, the AU mission be doubled to 6,000 soldiers and some 1,000 police officers," an AU diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The AU report, the findings of which must still be approved by the AU's Peace and Security Council, must authorize such an expansion, and also says the pan-African body should decide in September whether to increase the mission even further to 12,000 troops, a diplomat said.

Early last month, UN Humanitarian Affairs Secretary General Jan Egeland called for an urgent troop reinforcement to curb the rising number of refugees fleeing violence from the area.

Egeland said a 10,000-strong force was needed to ease security risks that he said could lead to the number of refugees rising to between three and four million.

General Festus Okonkwo
Photo: General Festus Okonkwo, African Union commander in Darfur. (Reuters).
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Pan-African Parliament wants AU soldiers to protect civilians in Darfur

An AFP report April 5 says the Pan-African Parliament Tuesday urged the African Union to extend the mandate of its soldiers to include the protection of civilians in Darfur, a spokesman said.

A Rwandan soldier in Darfur
Photo: A Rwandan soldier operating under the African Union mandate plays with children outside the AU base in Kab Kabiya, north west of El-Fasher, Sudan. (AFP)

"The mandate of the protectors in the ceasefire commission must be enhanced to go beyond protection of military observers," said PAP spokesman Khuitse Diseko.

This plea forms part of the recommendations of a PAP report on a fact-finding mission presented before the parliament at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Johannesburg. The report said the mandate of the AU soldiers should include the protection of the population in the Darfur region.

"All the necessary institutions and resources should be mobilised to ensure that ceasefire agreements are observed," said Diseko.

"The PAP delegates appealed for ceasefire agreements to be observed, as there was still a low scale war going on in the region," said Diseko.

"This problem is not only depressing but continues to hold us back as a continent geared on making the 21st century an African century. We want to build roads and telecommunication lines to develop Africa," said Diseko.

PAP sent its fact-finding mission to Sudan last November with a mandate to examine what was happening on the ground in Darfur. The PAP recommendations follow an internal AU report calling on the 53-member bloc to double the size of its military force in Darfur over the next four months.

The AU has some 2,200 troops in Darfur protecting AU observers monitoring a shaky ceasefire between Khartoum, its proxy militia and two rebel groups who have been fighting the government for two years. By the end of May, the AU plans to have boosted that number to 3,200 soldiers.

Established in March by the African Union, the PAP has no powers to pass laws and has no budget for this year although the 265-seat assembly plans to evolve into a law-making body around 2009.
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African Union unable to fund Darfur peace?

In an interview published April 3 at All Africa, a Sudanese official says the African Union do not have enough money to provide adequate security in Darfur.

it is interesting to read in the interview that a Sudanese official says "we are to build a new Sudan on democracy and political stability and good governance". But it is disappointing to see [yet another] Sudanese official being dismissive of the world's efforts to provide humanitarian aid and help to end the suffering and bring stability and prosperity to Sudan. It's no wonder many people around the world have no appetite for African news reports. The attitudes of Sudanese officials - and most other African officials - stink. You have to feel sorry for aid workers, Western diplomats and others that have to be respecful, friendly and polite to these people.

Note in the interview, when asked "What is the Sudanese government opinion on the deployment of AU peacekeepers from Rwanda and Nigeria?", the reply came back as: "We thank these countries for sharing with us our problems. They did a lot; the African Union did a lot. But they (AU) need assistance especially the financial assistance. The AU has limited resources to address all the necessary needs of these troops. So, the international community, which already has its own interests in Sudan, can assist the African Union to control and to observe the situation in Darfur." It goes to show, they are capable of showing appreciation.

But they are two faced and speak with forked tongue. African Union officials have made clear in the press that it is not short of funds. They've said the reason for the slow troop deployment is because of "accommodation" problems for the soldiers in Darfur. The European Union alone has committed a few hundred million US dollars. It could be that the AU are deploying their troops to hotspots elsewhere within Africa which would mean they (conveniently) do not have enough left for Darfur. Khartoum always rails against more "foreign" troops entering Sudan and does everything to thwart AU soldiers in Darfur. Khartoum speaks approvingly of African Union troops because the soldiers are hamstrung without a full mandate to protect. Note Khartoum gives no credit to the Europeans and Americans for funding the AU and helping to make it a reality.

A few decades ago, Pope John Paul II visited the Sudan. I wonder what he thought about the regime in Khartoum when he read about the catstrophe in Darfur. My hopes are that the new Pope will be from Nigeria. There has been three African Popes before, but that was a long time ago. Millions of people across Africa loved John Paul II. See what some have to say at the BBC's What is the Pope's legacy to Africa?
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Sudan 'too risky' for Japan

April 6 South Africa news report excerpt:

"Japan has decided Sudan is too risky for it to contribute to UN peacekeeping troops, ruling against a mission that would have marked a new breakthrough for the officially pacifist country, reports said on Wednesday.

Japan, which sent a team to Sudan last month to study a possible deployment, decided that security in the vast African country was uncertain and that Japan would be stretched thin in light of its mission in Iraq, Kyodo News said."

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