July 1, 2007 (ACCRA) — Though Sudan has accepted the notion of a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, the operation could still be derailed by a lack of funding and political will, African Union chairman Alpha Oumar Konare said Sunday.
“What is lacking today in the implementation of the process is financial resources to put peacekeeping troops on the ground,” said Konare, who spoke at the opening session of the summit of the 53-member African Union. Many AU member states have said they don’t have enough funds to outfit their soldiers for peacekeeping operations.
Konare also questioned the Sudanese government’s commitment to peace.
“It is also important that Sudan end the bombardments,” Konare said, referring to the government’s four-year battle with rebels in country’s western Darfur region.
The three-day summit in Ghana’s capital is being attended by more than 30 heads of state, including the presidents of Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The official topic of debate is a long-discussed, but elusive idea for a pan-African government. But immediate crises, such as conflicts in Sudan, Somalia and Chad, along with political turmoil in Zimbabwe, are expected to be addressed in private.
Sudan’s president, who canceled his trip after the death of an adviser, held a teleconference from Khartoum late Saturday in which he charged that Western governments were intervening in Darfur out of self-serving motives.
“Some of them are only involved because of what they will gain from the resources of the people,” Omar al-Bashir said.
Deputy U.N. Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro commended the AU for stepping in to the Darfur crisis when no one else would, but added that African states alone do not have the resources to bring an end to the conflict. She told those at the opening session that they should “urgently proceed” with the hybrid force that the Sudanese government agreed to earlier this month.
The crisis in Darfur, where an estimated 200,000 people have died, is expected to be addressed by members of Sudan’s government at the summit. Britain and Ghana, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the African Union, are introducing a resolution to the United Nations to authorize the joint U.N.-African Union force to help end the four-year conflict.
The main official agenda item for the summit is an idea first proposed four decades ago: a united Africa.
Although the idea of a borderless, continentwide entity has been accepted by most African countries, it has remained no more than a slogan due to disputes on how to proceed. Numerous documents have been adopted calling for a pan-African body over the years, but many individual states have failed to ratify them.
Konare said Africa needs unity to provide “collective security for Africa’s weight to be felt in the global world.”
A unified Africa might have more power in negotiating its terms with other regions as economic partners. Konare said the AU was bolstering partnership engagements with China, Latin America, India and the Arab league.
Ghanaian authorities have banned protests until the final day of the three-day summit on Tuesday, and 2,000 police have fanned out across this West African capital. Planned demonstrations included one calling for an end to the violence in Darfur and a second by Zimbabwean activists who traveled here to decry the crackdown on dissidents in their country.
On the sidelines of the summit, South African President Thabo Mbeki is expected to report on the progress of his attempt to mediate a solution in Zimbabwe. Earlier this year, Zimbabwe’s top opposition leader was hospitalized after police violently broke up a meeting he was attending. And the government recently arrested six suspects, including a former army officer, on charges of plotting a coup.
The political crisis is exacerbated by skyrocketing inflation, power and water outages, and food shortages.