Preparations step up for next phase of added UN support to African force in Darfur

Preparations step up for next phase of added UN support to African force in Darfur

The United Nations and the African Union (AU) have intensified their preparations for the second phase of the process leading to the eventual deployment of a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force in the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur.

The two organizations will hold a final round of consultations this weekend before submitting the details of the second phase, known as the “heavy support package,” to the Sudanese Government, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said today.

Under the ongoing first phase, a $21 million “light support package,” UNMIS has provided staff – including military advisers, police officers and civilian officials – as well as equipment to the existing and under-staffed AU monitoring mission in Darfur, known as AMIS. The second phase will include the provision of additional personnel and equipment.

At summits in November in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Abuja, Nigeria, the UN, the AU and Khartoum agreed to the three-phase process to try to stem the violence and bloodshed across Darfur, an arid and impoverished region the size of France on Sudan’s western flank.

More than 200,000 people have been killed and at least 2 million others displaced since 2003 as Government forces and allied militias clash with rebel groups seeking greater autonomy. Some 4 million people now depend on humanitarian aid.

Ultimately the hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force is expected to comprise about 17,000 troops and 3,000 police officers, compared to the 7,000-strong AMIS.