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Sudan Says it Will Remove Troops from Darfur - 2004-08-23

Sudan claims that the security threat in Darfur has decreased. The government's decision to reduce the paramilitary forces in the region has drawn a mixed reaction. While the United Nations sees the partial pullout as a welcome development, a military expert in Nairobi disagrees.

Khartoum's decision to slash the number of Popular Defense Forces paramilitary units by a third was announced by the government on the eve of the peace talks that opened Monday in Nigeria.

A U.N. official was quoted in news reports as welcoming the move, saying that the paramilitaries had been responsible for some of the instability there.

But the head of the Nairobi-based defense studies group, Security Research and Information Center, retired Colonel Jan Kamenju, says cutting the Popular Defense Forces without disarming the marauding Arab militia known as Janjaweed, will have no effect on the volatile situation in Darfur.

"As long as there's still the militias on the ground, they can remove whatever percentage," he said. "But as long as they're in control, there are no genuine negotiations."

The United Nations, the African Union and many others have called on the Sudanese government to disarm the Janjaweed, and the issue is also a key point in the peace negotiations between the Sudanese government and the rebel groups.

The Janjaweed are being blamed for killing thousands of people, and torching villages in an 18-month conflict that the U.N. says has created a humanitarian catastrophe.

Analyst Col. Kamenju also disagrees with the Sudanese government's claim that AU troops are not needed to bring stability to Darfur.

"Genuine negotiations only come in when you can bring in a third party, and the third party to come in in this case is the UN or the AU or both," he said.

The AU is negotiating with Khartoum about sending as many as two thousand peacekeepers into the region.

Fighting in Darfur has claimed tens of thousands of lives and has displaced more than one million people.