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Canada to support AU efforts in Sudan's Darfur

6/12/2005 10:19pm

OTTAWA, June 12 (AFP) -- Canada will support the African Union's efforts to restore peace in wartorn Sudan, either by sending up to 100 surplus armoured vehicles or helping maintain donated personnel carriers already in use there, officials told AFP.
"Canada is considering a number of options regarding armoured vehicles in Sudan. Those options are a response to a request from the African Union," said Canadian foreign affairs spokesperson Andrew Hannan.

"One of the options would be to provide surplus armoured vehicles. Another is to provide assistance to countries already participating in the AU mission that brought their own armoured vehicles. We would help service and maintain them," he said.

The 100 Grizzly armoured personnel carriers under consideration would be used by the 7,500 AU troops already stationed in the Darfur region. About 50 Canadian soldiers would give African soldiers lessons in a neighboring country in how to drive and maintain them.

The Canadian army has 274 of the six-wheeled vehicles, some nearly 30 years old, but no longer places them in front line operations. They were last used in peacekeeping missions in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia.

Last month, Canadian Prime Minister announced a contribution of 170 million dollars (136 million US dollars) in aid over the next two years to help bring peace to Sudan. He also said Canada would send up to 100 military experts to support African Union peacekeepers in the troubled Darfur region.

The funds were in addition to 90 million dollars (72 million US dollars) already committed by Canada the previous month "in support of the comprehensive peace agreement which has ended 50 years of a vicious civil war," the prime minister said at a press conference.

The 100 soldiers, along with helicopters and transport planes, "will operate in a technical and strategic support role to the African Union, and some will also participate in the UN mission in southern Sudan, because both areas are essential to peace and progress in the region," he said, noting his readiness to increase the number of troops if Canadian military commanders deem it necessary.

Between 180,000 and 300,000 people have died in the region since the beginning of 2003, as rebels and government forces, along with proxy militia, stepped up their offensives, according to UN estimates. More than two million people have been displaced.

Ottawa had already committed up to 31 soldiers to join a UN mission in southern Sudan to monitor a peace accord signed in January, after years of conflict between the government and ex-rebel separatists.

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