Home | News    Tuesday 2 November 2004

More African nations ready to send troops to Darfur

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ADDIS ABABA, Nov 2 (Reuters) - More African nations are willing to join an African Union (AU) peace monitoring operation in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region, currently staffed mainly by Nigeria and Rwanda, an AU official said on Tuesday.

Rwandan soldiers are greeted by Nigerian peacekeeping soldiers, right, as they disembark from a U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo plane at the El Fasher airport, Saturday, Oct.30, 2004 in Darfur as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission to Sudan.

Assane Ba, a spokesman for the AU’s Darfur operation, said Gambia and Tanzania had indicated readiness to provide 196 troops each, South Africa had offered 256, Chad 40, and Kenya 35.

"The response to AU’s request sent to a number of African countries for troops to serve in Darfur has been very positive," Ba told Reuters.

The AU is deploying more than 3,000 soldiers, police, military observers and civilian support staff to support 150 ceasefire monitors and 300 troops already in the arid region the size of France.

At least 1.5 million people have been uprooted from their homes since rebels took up arms against the Sudanese government last year.

The rebels have accused the government of using mounted Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, to loot and burn non-Arab villages — a charge Khartoum denies.

The United Nations calls the situation one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. It estimates at least 70,000 people have died from malnutrition and disease in the last seven months alone, a figure the Sudanese government disputes.

The AU force’s main job is to monitor a ceasefire agreed in April which both sides accuse each other of breaking, but their mandate also includes protecting civilians threatened with immediate harm.

Ba said the 53-nation pan-African body wanted to finish the deployment within the next two weeks.

The European Union has provided much of the funding for the force and U.S. military planes have helped fly Rwandan and Nigerian troops into the remote western region.

Ba added that he hoped African countries with the air lift capacity would now help ferry members of the force into Darfur.

AU officials have said the total budget for the force for one year is forecast at $221 million, including salaries, purchase of vehicles, construction of sites, communication, uniforms fuel and medical services.

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