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Nigerian President Warns Security Council Against Taking Sides in Sudan - 2004-09-24


The head of the African Union, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, says divisions on the Security Council could undermine efforts to bring peace to Sudan.

Mr. Obasanjo met with the Security Council in his capacity as chair of the African Union. In a resolution passed a week ago, the Security Council called on the African Union to send a force to Darfur, where fighting between rebels and pro-government Arab militias has claimed at least 50,000 and displaced 1.5 million people.

The United Nations calls the situation in Darfur the world's worst humanitarian crisis and says as many as 10,000 people a month are dying. Mr. Obasanjo told council members the situation in Darfur can no longer be the subject of procrastination and delay. The African Union has agreed to send a 3,000-5,000 force, made up of mostly military personnel, but also including police, observers, and civilian workers.

Mr. Obasanjo says the Sudanese government must accept that the international community is trying to help the government fulfill its responsibilities for the security and well being of all of its citizens.

Still, in a subtle, but pointed reference to divisions among Security Council members, he cautioned that the African Union's efforts must be viewed as even-handed if they are to succeed.

"The situation where some of us are seen as backing the rebels and others backing the government is not good enough," he said. "That erodes our credibility collectively or individually. I believe that we must be able to say to all of them even-handedly 'Where you are wrong you are wrong... you will be punished unless you change. Where you are wrong, you will be encouraged to change and where you fail to change, you will be punished.' I believe that that is very important."

Mr. Obasanjo says the African Union needs at least $200 million from the international community for logistical support.

The Nigerian president says the effort represents a special challenge to African nations. "We have never undertaken anything like this before," he noted. "What it involves, command and control, we have never done it before, troops from five or six nations to operate under a unified command. It will tax all of our resources. We have to make sure we do the job. We want be able to do it expeditiously and then say to the world we have done the job."

Mr. Obasanjo says African Union troops cannot stay in Darfur interminably and that a political settlement must be reached or Sudan will fall into anarchy and become another Somalia.

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