Home | News    Friday 30 July 2004

Rwanda impatient to send peace troops to Darfur

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By Finbarr O’Reilly

KIGALI, July 30 (Reuters) - Rwanda is "frustrated" at the stalled deployment of 154 of its troops to Sudan as part of an African Union force tasked with protecting ceasefire observers in Darfur, an army official said on Friday.

The world’s slow response to the crisis in western Sudan echoes Rwanda’s own experience during the central African country’s 1994 genocide, army spokesman Patrick Karegeya said.

"We are frustrated because people are dying and we have been through this same situation of endless debates and politicking while bodies are piling up on the ground," Karegeya told Reuters in Kigali on Friday.

At least 30,000 civilians have been killed in Darfur and one million more uprooted from their villages, since rebels took up arms in early 2003, in what the United Nations says is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The AU had been hoping to send 274 troops to protect 60 AU ceasefire observers in Darfur by the end of July, but the plan has been dogged by confusion over their exact role.

Diplomats worry about the possibility of clashes between an AU force and troops of member state Sudan. Karegeya said the 154 Rwandan troops committed to the mission would not be passive bystanders to any slaughter.

"We will respect the rules of engagement, but we cannot stand there if people are in imminent danger. I think we would fire if innocent civilians are being killed," he said.

Nigeria, which is leading the mission to Darfur, has prepared 120 troops.

The U.N. Security Council was set to approve on Friday a U.S.-drafted resolution threatening Sudan with sanctions if it does not rein in the marauding horse-mounted Janjaweed militia.

The resolution gives Khartoum 30 days to disarm and prosecute the Arab militias or the council would consider what would amount to sanctions.

Darfur rebel groups accuse the Sudanese government of using the Arab militia to crush them and attack black African villagers. Khartoum denies the charges, saying that rebels have killed 1,460 civilians since signing a ceasefire in early April.

The Darfur rebels walked out of peace talks earlier this month after Khartoum rejected their preconditions for talks, including the disarmament of pro-government Janjaweed militia.

Rwanda is still recovering from the social and economic devastation of the 1994 genocide, when some 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates were butchered in 100 days by state-sponsored Hutu extremists.

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