Sudan/Darfur: AU sending protection force
The African Union (AU) announced on Monday that it will be sending troops to Darfur. The troops will support the 40 some ceasefire monitors who have already been deployed ... but who have been unable to work because of the lack of security.
[The head of the AU's Directorate of Peace and Security, Sam] Ibok said an initial deployment of 300 troops would likely be sent to guard an eventual 60 AU peace monitors as well as to patrol refugee camps and border areas between Sudan and Chad, where some 200,000 Sudanese have fled to safety from attacks by armed groups. (source)The AU Peace and Security Council made the decision on Sunday after a long discussion. However, since the Sudanese representative didn't attend the meeting, the government's reaction/position is still unknown. Still, Ibok said he is certain Sudan would not object.
Ibok said that Nigeria and Rwanda were ready to contribute troops and that the AU expects Tanzania and Botswana to do the same. And according to this story, it appears that South Africa will be contributing troops as well. (Rwanda confirmed it was sending troops a few days back ... as did Nigeria, though it wasn't clear at the time whether its troops would be sent south or to Darfur.)
Ibok also addressed the "g" word during the press conference ...
"What is happening is serious, it is grave it is a human tragedy (but) at this point we are unable to describe what's happening in Darfur as genocide because the AU has not conducted an intensive investigation," he added. (source)This story also mentions that AU officials are being careful not to describe the planned Darfur troop deployment as a "peacekeeping operation". No explanation why.
UPDATE: Tuesday, July 6 ... Sudan has said okay to the deployment. According to Reuters ...
"As long as this is a will and the decision of the (AU) commission to take protection forces for the monitors, we are not going to block it," Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Osman Ismail told Reuters.An interesting comment ...
"(Though) we'd prefer not to take this step now."
[...] Khartoum has agreed to attend AU-mediated negotiations on Darfur in Ethiopia this month and would "cooperate fully with the African Union". (source)
"Either it will be the African Union or it will be the U.N. and I think Sudan knows that they will have more leeway with the AU," said one delegate. (source)UPDATE: Thursday July 8 ... The AU has decided on an expanded role for the troops. They will now be protecting civilians.
Previously, the A.U. said the force would only patrol refugee camps and protect A.U. officials monitoring a shaky cease-fire. (source)The toops will be deployed at the end of the month.
UPDATE: Story published July 9 ... Zambia has offered to contribute soldiers.
President Mwanawasa made the offer when he presented a paper on intervention on the peace and security situation in Africa, particularly the DR Congo. (source)