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UN and African Union rally for global support to prevent further suffering in Darfur

UN and African Union rally for global support to prevent further suffering in Darfur

Rallying worldwide support for a pan-African peacekeeping operation in Sudan's troubled Darfur region, the leaders of the United Nations and the African Union (AU) today jointly called for urgent action to help bolster their campaign to save millions of lives.

"Our two organizations have come together to prevent further suffering," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Alpha Oumar Konaré, Chairperson of the AU Commission, write in an opinion piece published in the Washington Times.

Their article appeared on the same day they co-hosted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, an international conference of donors to help boost support for the ongoing AU-mediated political process in Abuja, Nigeria, as well as the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), which needs both financial and logistical support to expand its operations in Darfur.

They note that while in recent months, the situation in Darfur has stabilized, and fewer large-scale crimes have been reported, humanitarian access remains limited, harassment of aid workers has increased and insecurity remains unacceptably high.

"Hundreds of thousands of war-affected people do not receive the help they need, and the AU troops are still far too few to deploy through the whole vast territory," they say of the two-year-old conflict in which countless people have been killed and nearly 2 million driven from their homes.

They also point out that although intensive media coverage eventually pushed the Darfur crisis into the headlines worldwide, the overall international response has fallen short in two lethal ways: another $350 million in aid is needed to help more than 3 million people survive the rest of this year; and more troops, police, aircraft and other transport, training and logistical support are needed to enable the AU to protect much of Darfur's population.

"As part of our efforts to address the Darfur crisis, we have jointly convened today's donor conference…to give the rest of the world – especially the wealthy countries with the means to contribute, and whose media and public opinion have been most vocal about the need to halt atrocities – an opportunity to rally and give practical support to the Africans actually doing something on the ground," the leaders say.

Outlining their recipe for success in Darfur, they say that the humanitarian effort must be fully funded, and safe access for relief workers must be fully guaranteed by all parties; the AU force must be expanded without delay, and bolstered by logistical and financial support; both the Sudanese Government and the rebels must bring their forces and allied militias under full control, and ensure they fully respect the ceasefire; and the parties to the conflict must negotiate a political agreement offering solid guarantees for lasting peace.

"Indeed, Darfur can only benefit if the rest of the Sudan is at peace, and if the new Government of national unity – due to take office in July – leads the whole country in a new, more inclusive direction. Thus the 10,000-strong peacekeeping force the United Nations is now deploying in the south will help make peace viable throughout the country, including Darfur," they add.

"The AU and the wider international community can and must help," Mr. Annan and Mr. Konaré say, adding: "But in the end peace will only be made, and kept, by the Sudanese people themselves."