By Evelyn LeopoldReuters
February 28, 2006
The African Union appears to have second thoughts about handing over its mission in Sudan's Darfur region to U.N. command after heavy lobbying by Khartoum, the top U.N. official in Sudan said on Tuesday. The United Nations has started contingency planning for a takeover from the African Union, which has 7,000 troops and monitors in Darfur. But the U.N. Security Council cannot authorize a U.N. force unless the AU agrees.
U.N. envoy Jan Pronk also told a news conference that many Sudanese in Khartoum feared fighters from al Qaeda would stream into the country, like they did in Iraq, if a U.N. force took over in Darfur, especially if it had Western contingents. "There is intelligence information that there are people in Khartoum who were not in Khartoum before," Pronk said, in reference to al Qaeda. "In these situations it is to a certain extent conjuncture (but) it would be unwise not to take the beginnings of such warnings seriously."
He said Sudan had sent delegations "to many countries in the world" to argue that the United Nations should not enter Darfur and the African Union should stay, Pronk said. "That is the present political situation. We do not know if African Union will confirm its own earlier decision," he said. AU foreign ministers were to meet on Friday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to decide on the transition, agreed to earlier in principle, but they postponed the session on Tuesday for a week. Arab nations, including those in North Africa, have supported the Khartoum government.
The United Nations would like the United States and Europeans to help with logistics in Darfur, such as ferrying troops to trouble spots. But most troops on the ground are expected to come from Africa and Asia. Pronk said that Sudanese leaders, whose consent is also needed, were hardening their position at a U.N. force, even though NATO is helping the underfinanced AU operation. "There is fear in Khartoum that the U.N. transition will be a conspiracy to bring Sudan in the same situation in Iraq," Pronk said.
Fear of Another Iraq
He said such fears about "recolonization, invasion, imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan" were genuine but they "can be made bigger than they are" by the government. Tens of thousands of people have been killed and more than 2 million herded into camps during more than three years of fighting between rebels and government-allied Arab militias in Darfur, a region the size of France.
According to reports from AU commanders in the field, militia on camel and horseback are continuing their campaign of rape, pillage and murder in Darfur, with Sudan army vehicles behind them, Pronk said. The government denies it backs the militia, known as Janjaweed, and Pronk said it was uncertain who was giving orders to support them militarily.
Pronk said that a peace agreement between rebels and the government being negotiated in Abuja, Nigeria, was a necessity before a robust U.N. force entered. He said there might be a pact in March but if it was merely a "fake" ceasefire without follow-up it would again falter. The United Nations is fielding a force of some 7,000 soldiers in southern Sudan to monitor a peace agreement that ended a three-decade-long north-south civil war and Pronk said he feared the U.N. mission might be affected if the anti-U.N. campaign persisted.
More Information on Sudan
More Information on Sanctions
More Information on the "War on Terrorism"
FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C íŸ 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.