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AU Says UN Must Boost Resources for Hybrid Darfur Peace Force

By Peter Heinlein
Addis Ababa
24 October 2007

The African Union is urging the United Nations to do more to provide the resources needed to ensure the establishment of a hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur. VOA's Peter Heinlein at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa reports the planned 26,000 - strong force is short of manpower and equipment.

A statement issued Tuesday by the African Union Peace and Security Council welcomes progress made in putting together the AU/U.N. peacekeeping mission in Darfur that will be known as UNAMID. But the statement read to reporters by the Council chairman, Angola's AU ambassador Manuel Augusto, says the United Nations must take the lead in gathering the resources needed to have a strong force in place by the end of the year.

"The United Nations Security Council has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security," said Manuel Augusto. "The United nations, therefore, is expected to provide continued and increased support to enhance the capacity of UNAMID and to take the necessary steps to significantly and rapidly improve the resources needed for the smooth transition from AMIS to UNAMID."

African Union officials say governments, most of them African, have pledged 90 percent of the 26,000 military and police personnel needed for the hybrid Darfur mission. But African Union military planner, General Henry Anyidoho told reporters that, despite heavy pressure, no country has offered to provide the air power necessary to make the force credible.

"The most critical area where we have not got any pledges is aviation assets," said General Anyidoho. "We are talking about attack helicopters, utility helicopters. heavy lift transport units. These are still outstanding. We haven't received any pledges."

General Anyidoho also cautioned that finding qualified troops might also pose a problem. He says a team of U.N. and AU experts will be visiting potential contributing countries in the next few weeks to ensure that the troops being offered are capable of operating in the harsh and hostile environment of Darfur.

"For infantry units, at least about 90 percent of them have been pledged," he said. "It doesn't mean those pledged are available. Because the process is still going on. We have to assess what they are capable of doing."

Sudan must also approve the composition of the force. Sudanese officials are demanding that the peacekeepers be overwhelmingly African. Plans are for 95 percent of the infantry units to be made up of African soldiers, while the overall composition would be about 80 percent African.

The conflict in Darfur has killed an estimated 200,000 people and displaced 2.5 million more over the past 4.5 years.

Sudan's ambassador at the United Nations was quoted this week as saying his government would announce a cease-fire October 27 aimed at ending the conflict. The truce would be timed to coincide with the opening of talks between the government and Darfur's rebels on the same day in Libya.

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