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Pan-African Parliament wants AU soldiers to protect civilians in Darfur

4/5/2005 6:36pm

JOHANNESBURG, April 5 (AFP) -- The Pan-African Parliament Tuesday urged the African Union to extend the mandate of its soldiers to include the protection of civilians in Sudan's troubled Darfur region, a spokesman said.

"The mandate of the protectors in the ceasefire commission must be enhanced to go beyond protection of military observers," said PAP spokesman Khuitse Diseko.

This plea forms part of the recommendations of a PAP report on a fact-finding mission presented before the parliament at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Johannesburg.

The report said the mandate of the AU soldiers should include the protection of the population in the Darfur region.

"All the necessary institutions and resources should be mobilised to ensure that ceasefire agreements are observed," said Diseko.

"The PAP delegates appealed for ceasefire agreements to be observed, as there was still a low scale war going on in the region," said Diseko.

"This problem is not only depressing but continues to hold us back as a continent geared on making the 21st century an African century. We want to build roads and telecommunication lines to develop Africa," said Diseko.

PAP sent its fact-finding mission to Sudan last November with a mandate to examine what was happening on the ground in Darfur.

The PAP recommendations follow an internal AU report calling on the 53-member bloc to double the size of its military force in Darfur over the next four months.

The AU has some 2,200 troops in Darfur protecting AU observers monitoring a shaky ceasefire between Khartoum, its proxy militia and two rebel groups who have been fighting the government for two years.

By the end of May, the AU plans to have boosted that number to 3,200 soldiers.

Established in March by the African Union, the PAP has no powers to pass laws and has no budget for this year although the 265-seat assembly plans to evolve into a law-making body around 2009.

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