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Intrntl Ambivalence on Darfur Peacekeeping Decried

AFRICA ACTION PRESS RELEASE

Africa Action Decries International Ambivalence on Darfur's Peacekeeping Needs

Concessions to Khartoum Undermine Peacekeeping Goal & Fail to Break Deadlock;

New Attacks Emphasize Need for Rapid Deployment of Robust Protection Force

Monday, November 20, 2006 (Washington, DC) – As the Sudanese government escalates attacks against civilians in Darfur, and as it reportedly reneges on a new compromise agreement for a hybrid peacekeeping force, Africa Action urges the U.S. and other members of the United Nations (UN) Security Council to stop making concessions to Khartoum and to stand firm in the pursuit of an international peacekeeping force that can provide protection for the people of Darfur.

Africa Action expresses outrage that the compromise negotiated last week in Addis Ababa failed to insist on the adequate troop size, mandate, timeline and leadership for an effective international peacekeeping force for Darfur. The organization notes that the international community’s concessions to Khartoum on these key points undermine the protection needs of the people of Darfur. At the same time, Khartoum’s newest rejection of any UN troops and mandate underscores the ongoing deadlock in addressing this crisis and the bad faith of the Sudanese government in this process.

Nii Akuetteh, who was recently appointed as Executive Director of Africa Action, said today, “The needs of the people of Darfur must be our top priority. It is clear that the Sudanese government continues to wage attacks against civilians, and that a protection force beyond the current African Union (AU) mission is urgently needed. The international community must not allow the Sudanese government to dictate the pace and scope of the response to this crisis. A UN force is needed now. The U.S. must use all available leverage points and invest its full diplomatic capital in achieving this goal on a most urgent basis.”

Africa Action emphasizes that a peacekeeping force for Darfur will require at least the 17,000 troops and 3,000 police recommended by the UN based on its recent assessment mission, and that Khartoum’s preference for a much lower number must not be countenanced. The organization asserts that a Chapter 7 UN mandate, and UN command and control will be required for an effective peacekeeping force for Darfur, particularly to address the security needs of civilians and humanitarian operations. The organization urges the rapid initial deployment of an international force, and a clear time-line to ramp the force up to full capacity as quickly as possible.

Ann-Louise Colgan, Director of Policy Analysis and Communications at Africa Action, said today, “A UN peacekeeping force for Darfur has been requested by the African Union, and authorized by the international community in Security Council Resolution 1706. This force is an essential first step towards addressing the ongoing violence in Darfur and creating conditions conducive to a true peace process. In principle and in practice, the African Union needs to be immediately reinforced by a large and robust UN peacekeeping force, and anything less than this represents an inadequate and unacceptable response to an ongoing genocide.”

Africa Action emphasizes that the AU mission in Darfur remains under-resourced and overwhelmed. As a result of the AU’s inadequacy and Khartoum’s manipulations and obstructions, the organization asserts that the option of simply boosting this mission with logistical, technical and financial support is neither viable nor effective. Africa Action accuses the Sudanese government of a “double standard” in its continued opposition to a UN force for Darfur and its acceptance of an existing UN mission in southern Sudan. Africa Action notes that the current UN peacekeeping operation in southern Sudan currently comprises some 10,000 UN military personnel, representing more than 60 countries worldwide.

Marie Clarke Brill, Director of Public Education & Mobilization at Africa Action said today, “As the violence escalates and the humanitarian emergency worsens, the world must act to protect Darfur. The Sudanese government cannot be allowed to buy time by purporting to negotiate on this issue even while it continues its military offensive against innocent civilians in Darfur. Dire reports from the ground are fueling new activism across the U.S., demanding that the Administration take new action to break the deadlock and achieve a real peacekeeping force Darfur.”

Africa Action continues to highlight the close ties between the Bush Administration and the Sudanese government in the context of the so-called “War on Terrorism.” The organization notes the leverage this provides to the U.S. to challenge Khartoum’s stance and achieve its cooperation on Darfur. Africa Action today reiterated its demand for the U.S. to use smart diplomacy to advance the shared goal of peace in Sudan by also enlisting the support of China and other key countries to press Khartoum to work with the international community and accept the authorized UN peacekeeping force for Darfur.

Nii Akuetteh said today, “As the African Union Peace and Security Council prepares to meet this week to discuss next steps on Darfur, this body must stand firm against Khartoum’s pressure and it must have strong international support in doing so. Nothing short of an international peacekeeping force can stop the violence in Darfur. The AU’s repeated request for a UN transition must be upheld this week and must be followed by new international action to achieve such a robust protection force now.”

For more analysis on the Darfur crisis, see http://www.africaaction.org/darfur

ENDS

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