The African Union agreed Monday to expand and extend its peacekeeping force in Darfur. The AU Peace and Security Council meeting in New York approved extending the mission until the end of the year and increasing the number of troops by 4,000 to 11,000. The United Nations will fund the AU mission, but Sudan remains strongly opposed to any UN takeover of the mission in Darfur.
Don Steinberg is vice-president for multi-lateral affairs for the International Crisis Group. From New York, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the effects of the AU decision.
“It’s a positive step because the removal of the Africa Union forces on September 30th would have exposed vast numbers of Darfurians to some very dire circumstances. But it’s not the solution to the problem. The extension of the African Union force through the end of the year is really a bridge, but it is a bridge at this point to nowhere because the Sudanese government has refused until this point to allow an integrated United Nations force of some 20,000 troops to come in. And that would be at least for the humanitarian and the security situation an important step,” he says.
Asked whether Sudan and the international community are at a stalemate if the Khartoum government continues to deny UN control of the peace mission, Steinberg says, “No, it’s not a stalemate by any chance. It is an important opportunity for the international community to pressure the government of Sudan to accept this action. We need joint diplomatic pressure from the African Union, from the Arab League, from Russia, China, Qatar, as well as Western powers. We also need a strong condemnation from the UN Security Council of the offensive that Khartoum is currently launching. We need to look at the possible adoption of personalized targeted sanctions on leaders in Khartoum, who are thwarting peace. We need to consider moving ahead with things like a no-fly zone or the deployment of forces to Chad to strengthen that situation. And we also need to look at the possibility of threatening Khartoum’s economic interests through things like a disinvestment campaign, targeted economic and financial sanctions and similar methods.”
The International Crisis Group official says the credibility of the international community is at stake in solving the Darfur crisis.