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A.U. Peacekeepers Heading to Darfur

A group of Nigerian troops is headed to the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan. Cathy Majtenyi reports from VOA's East African Bureau in Nairobi.

Fifty Nigerian peacekeepers operating under the African Union arrived in Sudan's capital, Khartoum, en route to Darfur. They were transported on U.S. aircraft. The deployment was delayed for several days by a dispute over clearance for their flight.

Three-hundred Rwandan peacekeepers are expected to join them Saturday.

The troops are part of a more than three-thousand-member force mandated to guard African Union observers monitoring a ceasefire 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.

The use of African peacekeepers in African conflicts has been widely hailed as a way for the continent to take charge of its own problems and solutions.

A.U. spokesman Adam Thiam says there are many advantages to sending African troops to the continent's troubled spots.

He says, "First the cost - the cost is much more reduced, just because of the transportation. And we are trying to develop also a peacekeeping doctrine based on African realities, that we do not have much resources and we have to do with what we have."

Mr. Thiam said peacekeepers who are from the same region where a conflict is taking place can better understand the people they are protecting. Fighting in Darfur, which began early last year, has claimed tens of thousands of lives and has displaced an estimated one-point-five-million people. It is being called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.