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UN joins African Union to assess peacekeeping needs in Darfur, Sudan

UN joins African Union to assess peacekeeping needs in Darfur, Sudan

Kofi Annan briefs reporters
The United Nations will join an African Union assessment team going to the troubled Darfur region in western Sudan to find out what is needed to strengthen security for the people caught up in civil strife there.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan told journalists at an impromptu news conference today that this was among the actions he discussed with Security Council members when he convened a meeting with them yesterday.

"I indicated that we are sending a mission, which will be led by the African Union, to Darfur to assess the situation on the ground. The European Union and the US will also have members on the team and after that mission we will do a serious re-assessment of what needs to be done," he said.

It would look awkward to have 10,000 UN peacekeeping troops in southern Sudan where it was now safe, but not enough troops in Darfur in the west where fighting was continuing and the protection of the people was an urgent matter, he said.

"We are concerned that we are not moving fast enough in Darfur," he said. "We are concerned that the atrocities have not stopped. We are concerned that we are not gaining access to all those in need. We are concerned that the parties are not respecting the ceasefire. The question is what measures should be taken to create a secure environment."

The AU troops seemed to be effective but were few, so their numbers would have to be increased either by helping the AU strengthen its force and giving them such logistical support as communications and vehicles, as well as financial help. "We have to help them do the work if we expect them to do it," he said.

There were also the options of sending in UN troops, or taking over the operation, but every choice had its pros and cons, Mr. Annan said.

Everyone was happy when the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) signed a peace agreement in Naivasha, Kenya, but there was not enough money to help the refugees who have been returning spontaneously to southern Sudan, he added.

The UN requested $500 million for southern Sudan programmes, but got just 5 per cent of the amount, he said.

Meanwhile, in Sudan's capital Khartoum, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Under-Secretary-General Jan Egeland, said at the end of a four-day visit to Sudan that a historic opportunity to consolidate peace in the country could be lost because of a lack of funding.

"2005 is a make or break year for Sudan," he said. "We've waited for a whole generation to get their peace agreement, ending one of the bloodiest wars of our lives," but "there is a disturbing discrepancy between what the world promised it would do once a peace agreement was signed and what it has delivered."

He visited southern Sudan, camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Darfur and held meetings with Government officials in Khartoum.

"I saw that the people believe in the peace. I saw them in engaged in excellent, small community-based projects, but the programmes are too small and too few," Mr. Egeland said.

"We do not have enough money to train more child combatants to become carpenters and masons and tailors. We do not have enough money to feed those who return to the burnt-down villages of Southern Sudan. We do not have enough money for the basic health care and education in one of the poorest places on earth."

Unless the world came up with the investments, it would lose a historic opportunity to put right one of the worst wars of our generation, he said. "To do so we have to think big."

The AU had 1,800 peacekeepers, but should have as many as there are humanitarian aid workers who would soon number 10,000 in Darfur, Mr. Egeland said.

While south Sudan has been a diplomatic and political triumph, the humanitarian response has been absent, he said. On the other hand, political action in Darfur has been weak and the humanitarian effort robust, he said.