U.N. Aims to Hasten Dispatch of Troops to Darfur
The Security Council passed a resolution Tuesday to accelerate transfer of control of an African Union force to a larger, U.N.-led force in Sudan’s Darfur region, and threatened sanctions for violators of a recent peace agreement.
The resolution is meant to jump-start a planned peacekeeping force of as many as 20,000 U.N. soldiers that has been blocked by the Sudanese government. It also demands that Sudan allow an assessment team of military experts into Darfur within a week.
The troops are meant to protect civilians and help people driven from their villages by pro-government militias to return home safely.
The African Union has about 7,300 troops spread across the France-size region, but they have proved sparse and under-equipped.
The resolution threatens a travel ban and asset freeze for any person or group that impedes the May 5 peace accord signed by the Sudanese government and the main rebel force in Darfur.
The Security Council also called on two other rebel groups to quickly sign on to the agreement, which aims to end fighting that has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people and the displacement of 2 million. The groups say the document didn’t meet their expectations.
The Sudanese government in Khartoum has given mixed signals about whether it will allow the United Nations to take over and add to the African Union force, saying it regarded the deployment of U.N. troops as a foreign intervention.
The AU Peace and Security Council agreed Monday to hand over the force by the end of September.
On Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John R. Bolton said he hoped the transfer would occur sooner.
“There have been estimates, six months, nine months. Those all seem long to us,” he said. “One reason it is hard to make a more definitive estimate is we have not been able to get logistical planning personnel into the Darfur region to do the work they need to do, and that is very clear from this resolution we expect this to happen immediately.”
China and Russia, which were reluctant to back the sanctions portion of the resolution, voted for it after the AU endorsed it and welcomed the U.N.’s help in a statement Monday. But each expressed reservations and insisted that the deployment of the U.N. forces be done under the direction of the Sudanese government.
Khartoum grudgingly lifted its opposition to the peacekeepers after the peace agreement was reached.
Bolton acknowledged that some language had been softened to gain a unanimous adoption, including a reference to NATO planning and help that some Security Council members had opposed.
“The most important aspect is we have a unanimous resolution invoking Chapter VII, because of the important role the U.N. can provide in protecting the innocent civilians in the Darfur region,” Bolton said, citing the provision that allows for sanctions and possible military action.
Khartoum had refused for weeks to allow the U.N.’s humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, to visit the country, and when he did arrive last week, his entourage was attacked in a camp for displaced people, who thought help was not coming fast enough. An interpreter with his party was killed.
The Darfur conflict began in 2003 when rebel groups took up arms against Khartoum in a dispute over land and water resources.
The Sudanese government is accused of backing the Arab militias, which have systematically attacked the region’s villages.
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