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SUDAN: AU discusses proposed transfer of peacekeepers to UN

سودانيزاونلاين.كوم
sudaneseonline.com
3/13/2006 5:59pm



NAIROBI, 10 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - A meeting of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) opened in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Friday to discuss the proposed transfer of the pan-African body's peacekeeping force in Sudan's western Darfur region to the United Nations, officials said.

The Sudanese government is strongly opposed to the handing over of the African Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to the UN.

The chairman of the AU commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, presented to the council a 23-page report, which the PSC members are expected to either endorse or reject. Ministers from the 15-member PSC attended the meeting, as well as observers from Rwanda, Egypt and Chad. A senior UN representative was also present.

Konare said in his report that the PSC in principle had supported the transfer of the peacekeeping force's mandate from the AU to the UN within the framework of the partnership between the two organisations. "That is why it was decided to convene today's meeting here in Addis Ababa - to review the situation and make a final decision on the issue of the transition towards the UN operation in Darfur and the modalities thereof," he noted.

Some observers have said the AU's proposal to transfer the AMIS mandate to the UN could complicate the crisis in Darfur, where rebels took up arms in February 2003 in a bid to end what they said was state discrimination and marginalisation of the region's ethnic African inhabitants.

Despite its limited capacity, the 6,964-strong AMIS force, which was deployed in Darfur in August 2004, has been credited with helping to improve security in the region and enabling humanitarian agencies to deliver aid to those affected by the conflict.

"The commission indicated that transfer should be understood as meaning the handing over of the peacekeeping role in Darfur to the UN, while the AU remains actively involved in other aspects of the peace process, such as the peace talks in Abuja, the operation of the joint commission as well as in the implementation of any peace agreement resulting from talks," Konare said.

Sudanese government representatives, who met AU officials in late February, claimed the reason for the proposed transfer of the peacekeeping force to the UN was not lack of funds as stated by the pan-African body, but conspiracy by some unnamed countries.
The AU is still seeking an additional US $46 million to sustain the mission up to 31 March 2006.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has announced a 44 percent reduction in its 2006 programme budget for the Darfur region.

In a revised appeal, cutting the amount from $33 million to $18.5 million, the High Commissioner said a steady erosion of security had forced the refugee agency, UNHCR, to downsize its operations and relocate staff.

UNHCR said its work in Darfur was "extremely difficult when direct access to beneficiaries is limited" and blamed lack of security and confidence in the Sudanese government as the main obstacles for internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their villages.

According to the UN, the Darfur conflict continues to affect some 3.5 million people. An estimated 1.8 million people have been internally displaced and 200,000 have fled to neighbouring Chad.

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