Accessibility links

Breaking News

African Union to Send Mission into War-Torn Darfur to Oversee Cease-Fire - 2004-05-31


The African Union is preparing to send a mission into the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan to oversee a cease-fire between the Sudanese government and warring rebels.

A spokesman for the African Union, Desmond Orjiako, says 10 military and civilian observers plan to travel to Sudan's capital, Khartoum, on Tuesday, then on to the Darfur region to begin their mission.

Mr. Orjiako says the main aim of its cease-fire monitoring commission is to ensure that the Sudanese government and the two main rebel groups operating there, the Sudan Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, stop their fighting.

?The African Union will be happy to see that all the conflict parties drop their guns and cooperate with the observers, and ensure that the cease-fire is observed,? Mr. Orjiako said.

The parties, which have been fighting for more than a year, signed a cease-fire agreement in neighboring Chad on April 8, which, among other things, called for the creation of a cease-fire commission.

Since then, each side has accused the other of violating the agreement.

Mr. Orjiako says the mainly west African observers will initially be headquartered in al-Fashir, the capital of northern Darfur.

He says the African Union intends to send as many as 120 observers to Darfur, after arrangements have been fully implemented.

Mr. Orjiako says, the African Union has also set up a joint appeal commission, made up of representatives from the Sudanese government and the two rebel groups. Disagreements over reports of violations are to be mediated there.

He did not say how much the mission would cost.

The United Nations, along with other international bodies, has described the fighting in Darfur as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and has likened it to a Rwanda-type ethnic cleansing.

More than 10,000 people have been killed since February 2003, and hundreds of thousands of others have fled their homes.

The rebel groups say they are fighting economic and ethnic repression from the government, aided in large part by Arab militias, called janjaweed, that many say are being backed by the Sudanese government.

The government attributes the fighting to hooligans and criminal elements.

The Darfur fighting is not being addressed in the peace talks currently taking place in Kenya between the Sudanese government and the country's main rebel group, a fact that observers claim will seriously undermine the success of the talks and other peace efforts in Sudan.