Home | News    Sunday 31 October 2004

More Rwandan troops arrive in Darfur to beef up African Union force

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By MOHAMED OSMAN, Associated Press Writer

KHARTOUM, Sudan, Oct 31, 2004 (AP) — About 100 Rwandan troops arrived Sunday in Sudan’s troubled Darfur region aboard two U.S. Air Force transport planes, joining a tiny but growing African force widely seen as the main hope to stabilizing the area.

Rwandan soldiers disembark from a U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo plane at the El Fasher airport, Saturday, Oct.30, 2004 in Darfur as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission to Sudan.

The new troops join 65 others who arrived in Darfur on Saturday to strengthen the African Union protection force, which is protecting military observers of a shaky April 4 cease-fire agreement.

"The troops have already arrived at the headquarters of the cease-fire commission in al-Fasher," capital of North Darfur province, Rwandan defense spokesman Lt. Col. Charles Karamba told The Associated Press in Nairobi, Kenya.

A total of 237 Rwandan troops were being flown out to join 50 Nigerian troops who were deployed in Darfur on Thursday. They are reinforcements for the 390-member AU mission working in a region roughly the size of France. The mission was to expand to 3,320 people by Nov. 30.

"The remaining troops will be leaving in the next two days with their military equipment and supplies," Karamba said. "We are ready to send more troops when we are called upon."

Maj. Mac Dorbi, the Ghanian chief operations officer for the African Union Mission in the Sudan, said 65 Rwandan soldiers had arrived Saturday in al-Fasher following a four-hour flight. The new soldiers are sorely needed, he said.

"We need more troops to spread out all over the area and react fast to incidents," Dorbi told the AP.

The United Nations has called Darfur the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. About 70,000 people have died there since March — mostly through disease and hunger — while 1.5 million people have fled their homes since February 2003. No reliable figures are available for those killed by violence.

Originally a clash between African farmers and Arab nomads over the distribution of scarce resources, the conflict has grown into a counterinsurgency in which pro-government Arab militia have raped, killed and burned the villages of their enemy.

The government denies allegations it supports the Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed. The Sudanese government also says the U.N.’s death toll is hugely exaggerated, putting it at about 7,000.

The number of unarmed military observers will expand to 450, a substantial increase from the 80 recently deployed there to investigate and report on violations of a cease-fire between rebel groups fighting government troops and allied militia. The observers will be protected by an armed security force of more than 2,300 soldiers and another 815 civilian police officers.

Dorbi said the new arrivals were taken to the AU’s nearby headquarters, where they will remain for several days until deploying in the region.

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