25 October 2007

Sudan: Africa to Supply Most Darfur Peacekeepers

Cape Town — Africa is likely to contribute up to four-fifths of the troops making up the planned United Nations-African Union hybrid peacekeeping force to be deployed in Sudan's conflict-torn Darfur region, according to a highly-ranked official in South Africa's foreign ministry.

Briefing journalists in Pretoria today, Aziz Pahad, the country's deputy foreign minister said that on the basis of current offers, it was estimated that between 73 and 83 percent of the force would be from African countries. The force, known as UNAMID, is expected to comprise more than 19,000 troops and 6,000 police officers.

Countries which have committed peacekeepers so far include Rwanda, Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Egypt and South Africa, according to Pahad's briefing notes published by the foreign ministry. The United Nations news agency recently reported that Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Mali are also expected to contribute, though some may pledge logistical support, transport or police rather than infantry battallions.

The creation of the hybrid force was authorized in July by the UN Security Council, which said the mission "should have a predominantly African character and the troops should, as far as possible, be sourced from African countries".

The force is expected to incorporate and take over from the existing African Union peacekeeping force (AMIS) in Darfur, in January next year. However, most AMIS battalions will "need to be reinforced to meet UN standards," Pahad said.

The UN has indicated that most of its infantry requirements have now been fulfilled. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has, however, made repeated calls to African countries over the past month to commit not only troops but also crucial military equipment such as helicopters and ground transport. "The mission's ability to carry out its basic work will be in jeopardy unless those gaps are quickly filled," the UN News Service quoted an official as saying earlier this month.

Discussion of plans for the deployment of the hybrid force comes as arrangements are being made for this weekend's landmark peace talks in Libya. Efforts to arrange peace talks have encountered a myriad of setbacks, including boycott threats from key Sudanese rebel groups.


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