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More Than 18,000 Troops Would Be Needed for Darfur

Annan Says More Than 18,000 Troops Would Be Needed for UN Mission in Darfur

New York, Aug 4 2006 7:00PM

A United Nations peacekeeping force in Darfur may need as many as 18,600 troops to ensure that all sides in the war-ravaged Sudanese region comply with the recently signed peace agreement, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in his latest report on the issue.

Mr. Annan outlines three options for how an expanded UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) would operate in Darfur – scheduled to begin next January – if the Sudanese Government consents to an international force.

In the report to the Security Council, he explains that any military force would have to be “large, agile and robust” as it seeks to bring peace and stability to a region where scores of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million others displaced since fighting erupted in 2003.

Depending on the required speed of deployment, levels of troop density and mobility as well as risks accepted for civilians and UN personnel, Mr. Annan recommends to the Council that the number of troops be about 15,300, 17,300 or 18,600.

The mission’s main focus would be on protecting civilians, especially the vast population of internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in camps across Darfur’s three states. Mr. Annan warns that the region’s harsh terrain and lack of usable roads, especially during the annual wet season, poses particular problems.

A peacekeeping mission would also need a significant component of police, he says, especially in helping to manage the IDP camps. Up to 3,300 police officers would be necessary in the start-up phase, with more probably required later.

Mr. Annan urges Khartoum to accept a UN peacekeeping mission in Darfur, arguing that peace in southern Sudan, where a separate, decades-long conflict ended only recently and UNMIS is now in place, will otherwise be placed in jeopardy.

“Peace cannot take root in one part of the country while another part remains chronically unstable and prone to extreme violence,” he writes.

Mr. Annan also cautions that the conflict could escalate and expand unless swift action is taken. “International involvement will increase the chances of peace taking root in Darfur, will strengthen the credibility of the peace process and the protection of the suffering populations of Darfur.”

In the meantime, the Secretary-General calls on Council members to back his plan for greater UN support of the existing African Union mission in the region, known as AMIS, which he says “cannot carry out its duties effectively with its current mandate and capabilities.”

The proposed enhanced support includes assistance with command and control, communications technology, public information, training, engineering and sourcing of water – most of which can be delivered in the short-term, according to the report.

In May, the Sudanese Government and several rebel groups signed the Darfur Peace Agreement, known as the DPA, but the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Abdelwahid faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A) have refused to accept the accord. Mr. Annan notes in his report that many IDPs also do not endorse the deal.

ENDS

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