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African Union Force In Sudan Needs More Backing

AU Force In Sudan Needs More Backing, Nigeria's President Tells Security Council

The African Union’s (AU) troop force in the strife-torn Darfur region of Sudan needs greater international funding and logistical support if it is to successfully carry out its task of protecting civilians there, Nigerian President and AU Chairman Olusegun Obasanjo told the Security Council today.

Briefing the Council on Sudan and other African issues, Mr. Obasanjo said he welcomed an expansion of the AU force to 3,000 troops as proposed in last Saturday’s resolution by the Council.

“But this can only be actualized through sustained financial backing,” he told the meeting, which was chaired by Spain, current holder of the Council presidency. “We should avoid a situation where African Union troops, on the ground, are handicapped as a result of a lack of requisite financial resources and logistics support.”

Mr. Obasanjo said “the capacity of the AU should be enhanced, and strengthened, through the provision of logistics, as well as the training and deployment of personnel.”

AU monitoring troops have been operating in Darfur since April, when the Sudanese Government and two rebel groups – the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) – reached a ceasefire agreement.

Mr. Obasanjo stressed that the AU was resolute in its commitment to bringing peace and security to Darfur, a vast region on Sudan’s western fringe that has been torn apart by conflict and militia attacks since last year.

About 1.45 million people are internally displaced and another 200,000 live as refugees in neighbouring Chad because of the attacks by the Janjaweed militias, who stand accused of killing and raping villagers and destroying homes, cropland and wells.

Last month, the AU organized peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria, between Khartoum and the SLM/A and JEM. According to Mr. Obasanjo, the negotiations stopped earlier this month for a one-month recess to allow the rebel groups to brief their colleagues.

Representatives of all 15 Council Members spoke at the meeting. For his part, Secretary-General Kofi Annan briefed the Council on what he described as the “terrible violence” unfolding in Darfur. Mr. Annan added that civilians are still being attacked there.

Mr. Annan also said the crisis there “is not simply an African problem,” but instead a global issue that should concern everyone.

Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain’s Foreign Minister, said there were no easy lessons or solutions to the problems of Darfur. Noting that the humanitarian situation, especially in the refugee camps, was starting to improve, he said that must remain the focus of the international response. He also said the world must be careful that the situation in Darfur did not break out into a regional conflict.

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