Home | News    Sunday 7 November 2004

African Union needs cash to send peacekeepers to Darfur

ADDIS ABABA, Nov 7 (AFP) — The African Union is ready to send more peacekeeping troops to quell the deadly violence in Sudan’s Darfur region but is prevented from doing so because it lacks the cash, according to officials at the AU headquarters.

A Rwandan soldier belonging to the African Union Force sits inside a helicopter. (AFP).

"Several African countries continue to propose the sending of additional troops, but we lack the means," said Assane Ba, spokesman for the AU’s conflict management center, Saturday.

"If the AU is to send more troops to Darfur, the international community must support us."

Ba’s remarks followed a warning to the UN Security Council by Jan Pronk, the UN special representative for the Sudan, that the situation in Darfur is likely to become unmanageable unless there are more efforts on the ground and at the conference table to defuse the crisis.

Upwards of 70,000 people have been killed in Darfur where government forces and a local Arab militia called the Janjaweed have been accused of widespread atrocities against African tribes. About 1.5 million people have been driven from their homes in the fighting between government-led forces and local rebels.

Ba told AFP the African Union has sent nearly 600 troops as observers to Darfur, about one third of the total envisaged.

The troops, 392 Rwandans and 202 Nigerians, also are responsible for protecting the civilian population in the areas in which they operate.

Ba said a further 392 Nigerians were due to leave for Darfur on November 15. He added that South Africa had pledged 256 soldiers, Tanzania and Gambia 196 each, Chad 40 and Kenya 35, while a Senegalese offer of troops is being examined by the pan-African body.

In addition, Ba said, 80 military observers from Egypt, Gambia, Ghana and South Africa were scheduled to arrive in the region by the end of this week, on top of the 136 already on the ground.

The African Union has agreed to send 636 observers to monitor the ceasefire signed in April between the Sudanese government and the Darfur rebels, which both sides allege has been frequently broken.

The organisation envisages eventually sending a total of more than 3,300 people on a mission to Sudan, including troops, military observers, police and civilian personnel. Ba said it was hoped to complete deployment of the mission by the end of this month.