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UN calls for more offers of troops, specialist units for hybrid force in Darfur

UN calls for more offers of troops, specialist units for hybrid force in Darfur

The United Nations said today that it has still not received any offers for some essential units of the hybrid peacekeeping force it plans to deploy with the African Union in the war-wracked Sudanese region of Darfur.

Following a meeting with potential contributors yesterday, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) said that there have been no offers so far for the medium utility helicopter units or the medium heavy transportation companies in the force, which will be known as UNAMID.

Some of the countries that have pledged to contribute troops to UNAMID have also acknowledged that their contributions would not meet UN peacekeeping standards, UN spokesperson Michele Montas told reporters.

“For these reasons, DPKO says it welcomes pledges for all units included in the UNAMID military component,” said Ms. Montas.

When fully operational, UNAMID will become the largest peacekeeping force in the world, with almost 26,000 troops and police officers and nearly 5,000 civilian staff. It will have an initial mandate of 12 months and will incorporate the existing AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS).

The Security Council authorized the operation in late July amid mounting international concern at the situation inside Darfur, where fighting between rebels, Government forces and allied Janjaweed militia groups has led to the deaths of over 200,000 people and the displacement of at least 2.2 million others.

Ms. Montas said DPKO has received 19 firm offers for the 19 formed police units planned for UNAMID, and pledges of more than 2,500 police officers for the 3,772 individual positions.

The headquarters of UNAMID will be in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, with a series of sector headquarters and other deployment locations spread across the three states of Darfur, an arid and impoverished region nearly as large as France.

On Friday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and AU Chairperson Alpha Oumar Konaré will co-chair a high-level meeting on Darfur at UN Headquarters that is designed to map out the strategy for the peace talks between the Government and rebels that is scheduled to take place in Libya next month.

Ahead of that meeting, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) Luis Moreno-Ocampo told journalists in New York today that justice must be a priority for Darfur.

“We must break the silence,” he said, adding later that “there can be no political solution, no security solution and no humanitarian solution as long as the alleged war criminals remain free in the Sudan.”

Two suspects, Ahmad Muhammad Harun and Janjaweed leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman (also known as Ali Kushayb), are wanted to stand trial in the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity over attacks against four villages in West Darfur between August 2003 and March 2004, but they have not yet been arrested by Sudan.

Mr. Harun is currently Sudan’s Minister of State for Humanitarian Affairs, with responsibility for Darfur’s camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), and last month Mr. Moreno-Ocampo told the UN News Centre that it was “totally unacceptable” that he held that post.

“Ahmad Harun is not protecting the camps; he is controlling them,” the Prosecutor said today. “He forced millions into those camps, and he still controls them. He must be stopped. He must be arrested. This is my goal. This is the Court’s goal. This must be our shared goal.”