Sudan warns against UN involvement

Posted in Africa | 10-Mar-06 | Author: Otto Bakano| Source: Mail & Guardian Online

Rwandan troops of the African Union force board a US Air Force plane, in Kigali, to be dispatched to Sudan's Darfur region, in July 2005.
Sudan's government warned on Wednesday that deploying a United Nations force to the war-torn western Darfur region risks worsening conflict there and eroding the African Union's (AU) mandate to intervene in other trouble spots in the continent.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mohamed el-Samani el-Wasila, said the time it would take to make a UN-backed mission operational risked rolling back gains made by the AU Mission (Amis) in Darfur.

"To stop what is going on and bring in a new scenario ... will need four or five or six times the money needed for the AU," el-Samani told reporters after holding talks with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki.

"Time-wise, it will also worsen the situation in Darfur," he said. "The AU has gained a respectable experience dealing with the problem."

In January, the AU's Peace and Security Council agreed in principle to wind up the cash-strapped Amis, the bloc's maiden peacekeeping operation deployed in 2004, and to hand it over to the UN.

But el-Samani said that a solution to the Darfur crisis, which has displaced millions and claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, lay in a political settlement between Khartoum and the Darfur rebels, who are currently holding peace talks in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

"The way to solve the problem is to address the political issues, which will help reach an agreement with our brothers in Darfur," he said.

"It is not through changing the mission from AU to the UN. We need to address the issues which are obstructing the development in Abuja to bring peace to Darfur," added el-Samani.

In January, the AU indicated that it may be forced to hand over its peacekeeping mission to the UN if international donors fail to plug a funding shortfall.

Amis costs $17-million a month, nearly all of which is paid for by the European Union, the UN and the United States, and currently has some 7 800 personnel, including peacekeepers and observers.

The conflict in Darfur, between rebels and militias backed by Sudanese government troops, has killed some 300 000 people and displaced 2-million others since 2003.

El-Samani also warned that the AU did not have the right to transfer the Darfur mission to the UN without seeking Khartoum's permission, and in any event, such a move would dent the pan-African body's authority to deal with other conflicts in the continent.

"The AU has got no right to transform the mission without taking the permission of Sudan," he said.

"We are not in a position, as members of the AU, to try on a document which clearly means we issue a death certificate to the AU," he added. "We will have no logic to send these troops elsewhere if it fails now and if we admit that it is a failure."

During the talks in Nairobi, Kibaki called on African leaders to arrive at a consensus aimed at achieving lasting peace in Darfur.

"As African leaders, we need to agree on the best approach to arrive at a peaceful solution to the conflict in Darfur," Kibaki said in statement.

Kibaki said that by "using the AU peace-keeping mission in Darfur, Africa will be promoting the search for African solutions to African problems", a call supported by el-Samani, who urged for the extension of the AMIS mandate. -- Sapa-AFP