Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Funding foils bid for more AU troops in Darfur

Reuters report by Andrew Cawthorne (via Business Day) 25 Oct 2006:
The African Union (AU) was far from adding 4000 troops to its stretched Darfur force because of a lack of funds, peace and security director Geofrey Mugumya said yesterday.

African states were willing to contribute more troops to the union's controversial 7000-strong force in Sudan, but lacked the funds needed to do so, Mugumya said in Addis Ababa yesterday.

He said pledges of financial support were not materialising -- citing the Arab League's nonpayment of a pledged $50m.

"Sometimes you get promises (of funds), but they are not translated into reality," he said at the union's headquarters in Ethiopia.

"African countries are willing to give any amount of troops for peacekeeping ... (but) I'm telling you, that might be impossible," Mugumya said.

The union's troop expansion was seen by diplomats as a stop-gap before a possible mission transfer to United Nations (UN) troops. Sudan is strongly opposed to a UN presence in Darfur, saying such a deployment could be a precursor to regime change.

The conflict has killed an estimated 200000 people and displaced another 2,5-million since 2003.

Despite Khartoum's opposition to UN entry after the AU mission's mandate ends on December 31, the union is struggling to rotate battalions, let alone add the planned six more at a cost of about $80m.

Mugumya was more upbeat, however, about the likelihood of a Ugandan-led African peacekeeping mission in Somalia. It would be tasked with bolstering an interim government challenged by the rise of powerful Islamists.

"Ugandan forces are ready and will go if the arms embargo is lifted or modified," he said. He said the UN Security Council was meeting next month to consider such a change - a prerequisite for a Somali intervention.

The Mogadishu-based Islamists have threatened to fight foreign troops, and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has said such intervention would justify jihad (holy war).

But Mugumya insisted that an African force would calm the situation, rather than inflame it.

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