Darfur: Annan hopeful of Sudanese green light to deployment of hybrid UN force

Darfur: Annan hopeful of Sudanese green light to deployment of hybrid UN force

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today he was hopeful Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir would indicate as early as tomorrow that he has agreed to a full ceasefire in the war-torn Darfur region and to the eventual deployment of a hybrid force of United Nations and African Union (AU) peacekeepers.

In his farewell speech to the Security Council before he leaves office at the end of the month, Mr. Annan said he “fervently hope[s] that we are now at last close to rescuing the people of Darfur from their agony.”

Earlier this week he dispatched a senior envoy, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, to Khartoum for talks with Mr. el-Bashir and other senior Sudanese Government ministers to clarify details of two recent agreements on how to end the widespread suffering in Darfur.

Since 2003, more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others forced to flee their homes to escape fighting between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy. An estimated 4 million people now depend on outside humanitarian aid.

Mr. Annan told the Council that the reports he has received from Mr. Ould-Abdallah “encourage me to think we may tomorrow receive a green light from President Bashir for a full ceasefire, a renewed effort to bring all parties into the political process, and deployment of the proposed hybrid African Union-United Nations force to protect the population.”

But the Secretary-General cautioned that it was important to wait to see the letter from Mr. el-Bashir that Mr. Ould-Abdallah will bring with him when he returns to New York.

“After so many disappointments I take nothing for granted. What I do know is that the Council will work, ably helped by my successor [Ban Ki-moon], on these and many other crises.”

At last month’s High-Level meeting on Darfur, held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the UN, the AU and Sudan agreed that the UN would provide extra support to the current AU peacekeeping mission – known as AMIS – as part of a three-phase process culminating in AMIS becoming a hybrid UN-AU mission.

The hybrid force is expected to have about 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers, compared to the current AMIS strength of around 7,000.

Mr. Ould-Abdallah and Mr. el-Bashir also discussed the outcome of a subsequent AU Peace and Security Council meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, which endorsed the conclusions reached in Addis Ababa.