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Nigerian Peacekeeping Force Chief Wants More Troops in Darfur

  • Gilbert da Costa

In the wake of the African Union agreeing to extend its peacekeeping mission in Darfur without a UN force, Nigerian commander of African peacekeepers in Darfur says more troops and logistical support are needed to halt the crisis. Gilbert da Costa reports from Abuja that the size of the new force was one of the sticking points at the just concluded Abuja meeting.

General Luke Afrazi says the success of any international peacekeeping operation in Darfur depends on the deployment of more troops and sufficient logistical support.

He said he would rather not comment on the direct involvement of U.N. troops but said without sufficient men and material, the Darfur mission would achieve very little.

"Whoever is doing the job must have men and material," said General Afrazi. "We are saying that we do not have enough men and we do not have enough logistics as at now to police. What we are talking about is one soldier policing about two square kilometers and that is not good enough. We have specifically 5,207 soldiers and that is talking about even medical and other elements. Whoever is on ground, whether it is U.N., whether it is AU, whether it is a mix of both, you must have enough men and they must have adequate logistic support, communications, vehicles and what have you to do the job."

Sudan has consistently rejected a proposal for an expanded peacekeeping mission in Darfur that will involve U.N. troops.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir told reporters the United Nations can only provide technical and financial support to the new Africa force, as well as some advisory role in the command structure of the regional troops.

"The Sudan is AU-plus, that support from the U.N. to the African troops," he said. "Any support; political, financial, logistics, technical, not command, advising the command. The number [of troops] should be established by the people on the ground."

The African Union's 7,000 strong peacekeeping force was set to leave Darfur by the end of the year. But AU officials say they now can stay for another six months.

African leaders who met in Abuja, Thursday, said they had hoped to convince Sudan to allow a larger, joint U.N. force to patrol the province.

AU spokesman Sa'id Djinnit confirmed that the hybrid AU and U.N. force will be predominantly African, with the United Nations having only a supporting role.

"The mission should be essentially African, but of course there might be case for element, support element from the United Nations in those areas where the African Union and African member countries may not be in a position to provide those elements," he said.

More than 200,000 people have reportedly been killed and at least two million displaced in nearly four years of violence in Darfur.

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