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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
01 December 2006

SUDAN: AU extends mandate of Darfur force as Sudan rejects UN troops

ABUJA, 1 Dec 2006 (IRIN) - The African Union (AU) has renewed the mandate of its peacekeeping force in Darfur for six months after Sudan rejected a proposal that would have brought in United Nations troops to help end the bloody conflict in its western region.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council met in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Thursday to consider proposals to send a combined 20,000-strong United Nations and AU force to replace 7,000 African soldiers now in Darfur, with a mandate ending on 31 December.

Sudan rejected any suggestions of UN troops working with the African force beyond advisory, technical, logistical or financial support, said Said Djinnit, the AU’s peace and security commissioner. Consequently, the Peace and Security Council decided to extend the stay of African peacekeepers in Darfur for six months, subject to review.

“The mission should be essentially African troops, but there might be support elements from the UN,” said Djinnit.

In attendance were representatives of 15 African countries on the council, including presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, who chaired the meeting, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Azeez Bouteflika of Algeria, John Kufuor of Ghana and Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal. Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir and UN representatives were also present.

The peacekeeping mission will adopt a UN command structure, with a special representative and the force commander to be appointed by the AU in consultation with the UN. In line with Sudanese demands, the size of the force will be determined by the assessment of needs done by the AU on the ground, Djinnit said.

Sudan’s al-Bashir had told reporters as he left the meeting earlier that his country would not accept a UN force in Darfur.

“We want an African force. We can have technical, advisory and financial support (from the UN),” al-Bashir said. “But no UN force.”

Some three years of fighting in Darfur between rebel and government forces has caused the death of more than 200,000 people and forced another 2.5 million from their homes, some of them into neighbouring Chad. The violence has spilled over into Chad as well, with rebels seeking to topple the government of President Idriss Deby.

Violence has persisted in Darfur despite a peace agreement reached in Nigeria in May between Khartoum and Sudanese rebels after more than a year of difficult talks. A 7,000-strong African peacekeeping force stationed in Darfur has been inadequate to ensure the security of civilians and aid workers seeking to give assistance to the large numbers in need, relief workers say.

The mainly black African tribes in Sudan’s western Darfur region took up arms against al-Bashir’s government in 2003, alleging decades of oppression. The government responded with a military crackdown and has allegedly sponsored the mainly Arab Janjawid militia, which is accused of committing atrocities against unarmed Darfur civilians.




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