GRANDE BAIE, Mauritius, Aug 16 (Reuters) – Sudan’s humanitarian crisis in Darfur has become a test case for Africa’s ability to resolve its own problems, a senior African Union official said on Monday.
Patrick Mazimhaka, deputy chairman of the AU, told an annual summit of the 13-nation African Development Community (SADC) that his organisation was trying to boost peacekeeping troops in the troubled Sudanese region.
“Africa is overwhelmed by conflict situations. A real test case is the horrifying situation in the Darfur region of the Sudan where more than a million people have been displaced with a thousand dying each day mostly of hunger-related diseases.”
“We are gravely concerned about the developments in the Sudan and are taking measures to bring the protracted conflicts to an end. These measures include the deployment of AU troops to support AU military observers already in the region,” he said.
The United Nations estimates that violence in Darfur, where the rebels took up arms in early 2003, has killed 50,000 people, displaced 1 million, and made 2 million short of food and medicine.
Rebels and human rights groups accuse the government of backing Arab militia to crush the rebellion and conduct a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur’s non-Arabs.
Mazimhaka said 155 Rwandan troops were already in Sudan and Nigeria plans to send a similar number before the end of the month. The expansion of these forces to a peacekeeping capacity is currently being considered.
But Mazimhaka, a former Rwandan minister, said the primary responsibility of the welfare of civilians in the Darfur region remained with the Sudanese government.