UN chief in Sudan to tackle Darfur

Ban Ki-moon to discuss deployment of peacekeeping force to troubled region.

    The UN plans to replace 7,000 African Union soldiers
    in Darfur with a new 26,000-strong force [AFP]
    Last week, Ban outlined a three-point approach to the problem: deployment of the peacekeeping force, consisting of soldiers and police officers; peace talks tentatively scheduled for October; and humanitarian aid.
    Lasting peace
    "I want to create the foundations of a lasting peace and security," Ban said last week.
    "My goal is to lock in the progress we have made so far, to build on it so that this terrible trauma may one day cease."

    Ban arrived in Khartoum on Monday to jump-
    start the Darfur peace process [AFP]

    Aides have sought to play down expectation for the tour despite suggestions that Ban may announce a venue for the peace talks between Khartoum and Darfur separatist groups.

    "This is not a trip about breakthroughs," one senior official said.
    Al-Bashir has agreed to both the talks and the peacekeeping force but Western governments remain suspicious of his sincerity.
    Britain and France last week revived talk of sanctions if he does not co-operate.

    Abdelmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed, Sudan's ambassador to the UN, said on the eve of Ban's visit that "the secretary-general will find a committed Sudan, committed leadership, committed people to peace".

    Better or worse?
    Mohamed said: "Whatever is required of us like water, land, whatever, we will generously do, because this issue is about the peace of Sudan, the peace of Darfur and the stability of the whole country."
    In video

    Mohammed Adow speaks to Sudanese opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi

    However, a prominent Sudanese opposition leader has told Al Jazeera that the situation in the region is getting worse every day.

    "Fighting has become a way of life," Hassan al-Turabi, leader of the Popular Congress Party, said.
    "Not only between the government and its Janjiwid allies, and the resistance movements, but now between the resistance movements who have spread into the land of other tribes."

    Despite this, al-Turabi said that the deployment of the joint UN-AU peacekeeping force is not necessary.

    He said: "We advised the government ... you don't need African forces, you don't need European forces, we don't need them ... to die for us."

    European contribution

    On the other hand, Ban, in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Monday, said Western nations including Italy needed to provide specialist troops for the peacekeeping force.
    "We need technical and logistical assets, air transport capacity, and for this we are hoping for the contribution of European countries, including Italy," he said.

    "The secretary-general will find a committed Sudan, committed leadership, committed people to peace"

    Abdelmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamed,
    Sudan's UN Ambassador

    The peacekeeping forces will replace the 7,000-strong African Union force now in Darfur by December 31.

    Ban has described the mission as "one of the largest and most complex field operations the United Nations has ever undertaken" because of the harsh environment and lack of water and communications.

    International experts estimate that about 200,000 have died and 2.5 million have been driven from their homes during four and a half years of fighting in Darfur.

    Sudan puts the death toll from the conflict, which flared when separatist groups took up arms against the government, at about 9,000 people.

    Although Darfur will be the main focus of Ban's trip, he will also visit south Sudan, where a 2005 peace deal to end a 20-year war that killed two million people appears to be faltering.

    In neighbouring Chad, which has been affected by the spillover of the Darfur conflict, Ban said he will discuss the expected deployment of up to 3,000 European Union troops and 300 UN international police to help protect some 400,000 refugees and internally displaced people.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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