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AU should immediately increase troop in Sudan's darfur-HRW

5/8/2005 7:19am

ADDIS ABABA, May 8, 2005 (HRW) -- The African Union should immediately increase the number of troops deployed in Darfur, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to members of the pan-African organization's Peace and Security Council.
The African Union's current force in Darfur remains too small, and the projected rate of deployment of more troops too slow, to protect civilians and reverse ethnic cleansing in the western Sudanese region.

On April 28, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, issued a report calling for an increase in AU forces in Darfur to12,300 military, police and civilian personnel by spring 2006. Human Rights Watch urged members of the Council to commit and deploy the 12,300 troops to Darfur immediately. Currently, the AU mission in Darfur has 2,372 troops deployed across a region the size of France.

"The Africa Union must quickly build up its troop presence in Darfur," said Peter Takirambudde, Africa director of Human Rights Watch. "Success depends on the African Union's ability to get enough troops on the ground now to stop ongoing violence across Darfur."

If the African countries that have pledged troops are not able to deploy them in a timely fashion, the African Union should seek those forces from other countries and request the international community to provide necessary logistical and technical support, Human Rights Watch said.

The African Union deserves credit for taking the lead in efforts to restore security to Darfur. Human Rights Watch lauded AU plans to help reverse the "ethnic cleansing" that has taken place in Darfur since the conflict began in February 2003.

The Sudanese government has not objected to the presence of troops from African countries, but rejects any deployment of non-African troops. The AU force was originally deployed to monitor the April 2004 ceasefire between the government and two rebel groups. As the African Union has documented, this ceasefire has been routinely violated by all parties to the conflict.

Despite repeated promises, the Sudanese authorities have repeatedly failed to curb ongoing attacks on civilians by the government-backed militias known as Janjaweed. According to the African Union, an estimated two million civilians have been displaced, twice as many as a year ago.

According to recent United Nations estimates, up to 180,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the conflict, in which Sudanese forces and government-backed militias have engaged in a scorched-earth campaign against civilians of the same ethnicity as two main rebel groups in Darfur. In the past two years, an estimated 2,000 villages have been totally or partially burned to the ground in these attacks. Displaced persons fear losing their land, but are unwilling to return home because of continued Janjaweed attacks, ongoing burning of villages and widespread destruction of crops.

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