African Union to Add Troops In Darfur

By Tsegaye Tadesse
Tuesday, September 26, 2006

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Sept. 25 -- The African Union will add 4,000 troops to its Darfur peacekeeping mission, bolstering the 7,000 poorly funded and under-equipped A.U. forces currently monitoring a battered cease-fire.

The additional troops would increase the number of police officers and soldiers in western Sudan to 11,000, a spokesman for the A.U said Monday.

"The Peace and Security Council of the A.U. has endorsed the new concept of operation, extending the duration of stay of the African Mission in Sudan up to December 31, 2006, and to boost the troop level by six battalions," said Assan Ba, spokesman for the A.U. in Addis Ababa. One battalion consists of 680 troops.

Ba said the soldiers would come from countries already contributing troops in Darfur -- Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal.

The move came as international pressure on Sudan rises to allow a force of 20,000 U.N. troops into Darfur to replace the current A.U. continent. An estimated 200,000 people have died in Darfur since violence flared in 2003, and 2.5 million have been displaced in the fighting among government forces, rebels and militias.

But the Sudanese government has refused to allow U.N. forces into Darfur, calling the proposal a Western ploy to recolonize Sudan.

The African Union's mandate in Darfur had been set to expire on Sept. 30, and the pan-African body had said it could not continue beyond October because it was out of money and needed more equipment, such as helicopters.

With aid experts predicting a new humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur if African troops withdrew, the A.U. agreed last week to extend its mission until Dec. 31, with logistical and material support from the United Nations and funding from Arab states.

The United Nations has readied communications and other equipment and 100 personnel to help A.U. forces in the coming months.

Qatar's U.N. ambassador, Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, said about $50 million had been raised for the force by Arab nations, out of a target of $100 million.

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