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African Union Peacekeeping Troops Head to Darfur

More than 200 Rwandan troops are on their way to the war-torn western Darfur region of Sudan, where they will assume peacekeeping duties under the African Union.

Rwanda's foreign minister, Charles Murigande, told VOA Saturday that 241 Rwandan soldiers are headed to Darfur.

There, they will join more than 150 Rwandan peacekeeping troops already there, as well as about 50 Nigerian troops who were sent to the area Thursday.

Altogether, seven African countries are expected to contribute more than 3,000 troops to the African Union's peacekeeping force in Darfur.

Mr. Murigande said he is pleased his country is involved in the continental effort.

"The vision of the African Union is to build an Africa, which is peaceful, integrated and prosperous," said Charles Murigande. "We believe, by participating to the Darfur mission, we are also contributing to the realization of this vision."

The peacekeeping troops are there primarily to protect African Union observers monitoring a cease-fire signed earlier this year by the Sudanese government and rebel groups operating in the area.

The troops are also to protect civilians against attacks by a pro-government militia, known as the janjaweed.

Fighting in Darfur, which began early last year, has claimed tens of thousands of lives and has displaced an estimated 1.5 million people. It is being called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.