Jan 24, 2006 (KHARTOUM) — Sudan is expected to show progress in ending the violence in its western region of Darfur before it takes the chair of the 53-nation African Union, a Sudanese minister said Tuesday.
“The writing was clear on the wall right from day one that Africa was not going to give the leadership to Sudan simply because of Darfur,” said Minister from Cabinet Affairs Deng Alor, who hails from southern Sudan.
African leaders on Tuesday named Congo to head the AU but agreed that Sudan would take over in 2007 as they wrapped up a two-day summit in Khartoum that was overshadowed by disagreement over the AU leadership.
Sudan’s bid to head the pan-continental group had failed to win unanimous support because of the conflict in Darfur, where the AU is mediating peace talks and has deployed a 7,000-strong peacekeeping force.
“I think that was the clear message to Sudan, that if you put your house in order, we will have no problem with you,” said Alor.
“I think that is what we are going to do. We are going to put our house in order, solve our problems so that come 2007 we take the lead.”
Khartoum last year signed an historic deal to end 21 years of war in the south but the conflict in Darfur has continued, claiming some 300,000 lives and displacing two million people since 2003.
Sudanese Information Minister Zahawi Ibrahim Malik denied there was a link between the situation in Darfur and the AU decision to postpone in effect the Sudanese AU presidency until 2007.
“This is a decision taken by African leaders,” said Malik.
“We want to solve it (Darfur) as a Sudan problem. We are ready to do whatever we need to do. But the problem is our problem,” he said.