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First group of UN advisers to be deployed in strife-torn Darfur ‘in the next few days’

First group of UN advisers to be deployed in strife-torn Darfur ‘in the next few days’

The first group of United Nations police advisers and military officers will be deployed in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region over the next few days, the UN said today, after agreement was reached in talks with the Sudanese Government and African Union (AU) that paves the way for the eventual deployment of thousands of peacekeepers.

“Under the light support package, 24 police advisers and 43 staff officers will start to be deployed in the next few days. The balance of military and police officers will be deployed in the coming weeks,” the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said in a press release.

“It was agreed that UN military and police officers will wear their national uniforms with a blue UN beret. In addition, they will wear an AU armband,” it added. Under an initial $21 million support package to the AU, agreed upon last month, UNMIS will provide 105 military advisers, 33 police officers and 48 civilian staff, as well as equipment.

Today’s meeting, which was held in Khartoum, was the third of the so-called tripartite mechanism, involving the UN, AU and Sudanese Government, and all three representatives will now gather every 15 days to follow up on the deployment of support to the AU force, which is known as AMIS.

This initial package is the first part of a three-phase process that is expected to culminate in a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in Darfur, made up of 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers, compared to AMIS’ current strength of just 7,000 to monitor an area roughly the size of France.

On the ground in Darfur, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million others forced to flee their homes over the past three years, Government security forces have increased the number of road blocks in the North Darfur state capital of El Fasher following Saturday’s shooting of a police officer and increasing carjackings, UNMIS said.

Also in North Darfur, a UN assessment mission on Saturday found the village of Abu Sakin completely deserted and looted, with more than 50 houses burned to the ground, amid reports of Arab militia continuing to loot and patrol the area to deter villagers from returning and several thousand villagers hiding in nearby hills.

The situation also remains grim in West Darfur, where two commercial trucks carrying UN agency food were attacked in Habila Kanari. Ten armed attackers, believed to be Janjaweed militia, shot at the vehicles that drove through the ambush, hitting one driver who is currently being treated in Khartoum.

Fighting in Jebel Marra has also led to a new influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Zalingei, with Hamadia camp receiving 200 more people on Saturday.

The UN estimates that 4 million people in Darfur now depend on outside humanitarian aid as a result of having to flee their homes and land to escape the mass bloodshed and devastation caused by fighting between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups seeking greater autonomy.