Sunday, August 12, 2007

Darfur update

AU: Africans can make up Darfur force By MOHAMED OSMAN, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 36 minutes ago

The African Union chairman said Sunday that outside troops would not be needed for the new Darfur peacekeeping force in Sudan because African governments had committed enough soldiers.

The Sudanese government is adamantly opposed to non-Africans playing any major role in the hybrid U.N.-African Union operation that was authorized by the U.N. Security Council on July 31 and will be made up of 20,000 peacekeepers and 6,000 civilian police.

The comments from AU chairman Alpha Oumar Konare appeared to contradict statements made by the U.S. envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, that the government in Khartoum would have to accept non-African troops in the beefed up force because the continent does not have enough trained soldiers to fully staff the peacekeeping contingent.

"I can confirm today that we have received sufficient commitments from African countries that we will not have to resort to non-African forces," Konare said following a brief meeting with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum.

Disagreements over the composition of the mission were a major reason the authorization was delayed for months despite mounting pressure for Sudan to accept help end nearly four years of internal conflict in which more than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced.

Konare gave no details about which countries had pledged forces but several African nations have made announcements regarding troops.

In addition to the AU forces currently in Darfur, that are expected to stay on, Nigeria, Malawi and Rwanda have offered to deploy another battalion each, about 2,400 troops total, and Senegal has said it will triple its contingent to 1,600.

Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt and Ethiopia also have pledged to contribute troops or add to current contingents for a joint force.

According to the U.N. resolution, the composition of the force must be decided by Aug. 30.

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