Home | News    Thursday 8 July 2004

Presidents of four African states in talks on Darfur crisis

ADDIS ABABA, July 8 (AFP) — The presidents of Sudan, Chad, Nigeria and South Africa began meeting in the Ethiopian capital Thursday to discuss the crisis in Sudan’s western region of Darfur.

Joining Sudan’s Omar el-Beshir and Chad’s Idriss Deby was AU Chairman and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, as well as President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

Sources close to the meeting, held on the sidelines of a major summit of the African Union (AU), said the main point of discussion was the AU’s engagement in Darfur and its possible extension.

The AU has chosen Darfur, where 15 months of conflict have spawned what the UN has termed the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe, as a test case for its new trouble-shooting Peace and Security Council (PSC).

The PSC has already begun deploying ceasefire observers in Darfur and plans to bolster this mission with an armed protection force of some 300 troops. Nigeria and Rwanda are among the countries to have offered troops for this force, which AU officials stress is not a peacekeeping mission.

The conflict in Darfur has left more than 10,000 dead and forced more than a million people from their homes, including more than 120,000 to Chad, which has played a mediating role in negotiations between Khartoum and two rebel groups who rose up in February 2003.

Pro-Khartoum militias have been blamed for much of the devastation in Darfur, where a major famine is in the offing.

Thursday’s meeting follows proposals Beshir made during the AU summit, according to a Chadian official.

Beshir and Deby are also scheduled to meet in Darfur itself over the weekend.